Brazilian plane maker Embraer inaugurated the country's first executive aviation simulator on Tuesday, part of the company's push to boost sales in its lagging business jet unit through increased investment in services and support.
Embraer's executive aviation division has been struggling with weak demand since the 2008 global financial crisis, as businesses cancelled orders resulting in the company's backlog hitting a six-year low in June.
By addressing weaknesses in service and support, the world's third-largest plane maker is looking to reignite demand with a particular focus on strategic growth markets such as Brazil.
The simulator, developed in partnership with the Canadian company CAE, provides instruction services for Embraer's Phenom line of small business jets, which makes up about 80 percent of the company's fleet in Brazil.
"We believe that Brazil will continue to grow," said Marco Tulio Pellegrini, vice president of operations at Embraer's executive aviation division, who declined to say how much the investment cost.
"It makes sense that we should continue to invest in the Brazilian market to improve client service," he said. The company predicts Brazil will usurp Mexico as the second largest buyer of business jets after the United States in less than two years.
Embraer will open a new service centre in Sorocaba, Brazil next year, and will continue to seek out opportunities to place additional centres in other developing markets, Pellegrini said.
While services currently make up about 10 percent of revenue in the executive jets division, Embraer intends to increase that to between 20 and 25 percent in coming years, the company said.
Embraer expects executive aviation will slip to about 17 percent of revenue in 2012, from 21 percent in 2011, according to forecasts laid out earlier this year.
Pellegrini denied that additional revenue from services was intended to make up for weaker plane sales.
"We aren't looking at revenue growth, but rather on how to provide good client service. A satisfied client will keep buying our products," said Pellegrini.
Last month, Embraer chief executive Frederico Curado said the company could increase executive jet production slightly next year as new models come on line.