Collision Course in Commercial Aircraft: Boeing-Airbus-McDonnell Douglas 1991




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Collision Course in Commercial Aircraft:

Boeing-Airbus-McDonnell Douglas - 1991

In this case, we will be analyzing strategic interaction between Airbus and Boeing, the two leading producers in the global commercial aircraft industry. In particular, we will be considering Airbus' proposed launch of the A3XX, their entry into the intercontinental jumbo jet segment, and Boeing's potential competitive responses to this entry. We will attempt to answer the questions: Should Airbus enter the jumbo jet segment? If so, how? And, what should Boeing do about it?1


An appropriate analysis of this situation requires the integration of a variety of tools and concepts to which you have been introduced both in this course and the rest of the Commerce curriculum. In particular, we would like you to construct cashflow analyses of the different scenarios that could play out in this industry and attempt to understand which of these scenarios are more likely to occur by applying game theoretic reasoning to this situation. Based on this analysis, we would then like you to make recommendations concerning what your team thinks Airbus or Boeing should do2. While your quantitative analysis of this situation should form a basis for your recommendation, you should certainly consider other factors you deem important (but not accounted for in the model) when you finalize your recommendation.
Step 1: Assemble Models of Cashflow/NPV Under Each Scenario
To help you get going, we have assembled a "template" you can use to put your cashflow analyses together. Included in this template is a model of both total demand and market share in the jumbo jet segment. This model is interactive in that a change in the price for either competitor will lead to corresponding changes in both the total industry demand and each competitor's market share. When you put your cashflow models together, you can link the cashflow model to the price, demand, and cumulative output data in the market share model to determine the revenues received and costs incurred by each competitor. Remember - whether your team is handling Airbus or Boeing - you need to put together cash flow models for both competitors under each scenario. Also, note that this is not as much work as it sounds! If you do this correctly, you can simply copy your formulas from one scenario to the next, and then change your assumptions (such as the capital cost, price, cumulative output, etc.) under each scenario. So, you should avoid "hardwiring" your assumptions into the formulas; instead, place critical assumptions in a separate cell so that they can be easily changed later on.
The scenarios you need to consider in your analysis are driven by the strategies each competitor might potentially use. For example, Airbus can choose to either launch the A3XX or not to launch the A3XX. Boeing can choose to either launch a modified version of the 747 or go with the current version of the aircraft. Evaluating each potential scenario in this market involves understanding what happens when different pairs of strategies are used by the competitors3. For example, what are the performance implications when Airbus and Boeing both decide to launch aircraft?
Step 2: Figure Out The Optimal Pricing Strategies For Airbus And Boeing Under Each Scenario
T
o figure out the performance implications of each scenario, you need to figure out the optimal pricing strategy in each situation (one of the BIG problems in marketing). You can figure out each firm's optimal pricing strategy (after you have put together the cashflow models) by first considering your firm's optimal response to a series of prices used by the competitor. For example, if you were Airbus, you might consider what you would do if Boeing priced the 747 at $50 MM, $100 MM, $150 MM, $200 MM, and $250 MM. At each of these price points, you can figure out what your optimal pricing response would be by first entering the Boeing price in the appropriate yellow square on the spreadsheet. Then, in Excel, go up to the "Tools" menu. Within "Tools," you should see an option for "Solver;" select "Solver". Now, you want to figure out your optimal response to Boeing; that is, given Boeing's price, you want to find the price for Airbus that maximizes Airbus' payoff. In "Solver," you can do this by telling "Solver" to maximize Airbus' NPV (the target cell) by changing Airbus' price. In addition, you will want to add a constraint that keeps Airbus' price greater than zero (Above you can see a "screenshot" of the "Solver" window with the appropriate settings.). After you have set the conditions, tell "Solver" to solve the problem by clicking solve. The NPV and price that are obtained are Airbus's optimal pricing strategy and payoff given Boeing's price. Make a note of both the price and payoff. By iteratively changing Boeing's price and obtaining Airbus' optimal prices and payoffs, you can get a feel for Airbus' pricing strategy under the given scenario. After you have completed obtaining Airbus' optimal response given several of Boeing's potential pricing strategies, follow the same steps for Boeing. To see the format of what you should get from this procedure, take a look at the sheet labeled "Pricing Strategies" in the AirbusBoeing.xls workbook.
After you have the optimal pricing strategy for both Airbus and Boeing, plot out the result for both firms. You should get a picture similar to the chart below. You can now determine the optimal pricing strategies for each firm by noting where the two lines "cross." (This point is a "Nash equilibrium." Can you tell why?) To determine the payoffs to each firm, take these prices, plug them back into the cashflow spreadsheet, and note the payoffs to both Airbus and Boeing. These payoffs are your forecast of what you think will happen to Airbus and Boeing under that scenario.
You then need to find a similar pricing equilibrium for the scenario where "Airbus Launches & Boeing Launches." However, if you think about it, you don't have to go through this procedure where Airbus doesn't launch. Under those scenarios, you should be able to figure out intuitively what Airbus' payoff is. Boeing's payoff can be determined simply by finding the price for Boeing that maximizes NPV.
Step 3: Assemble the Payoff Matrix and Determine the Outcome of the Game

Once you have the payoffs for both Airbus and Boeing under each scenario, you can put those payoffs into a game matrix similar to the one on strategic commitment that was given in class (this matrix appears below). Using the same principles described in that handout, you can then determine the likely outcome of this strategic interaction between Airbus and Boeing.


Game Theoretic Principles in This Analysis
A key insight from game theory that can be applied to strategic reasoning in business situations is the principle, "Look forward, and reason back." This principle refers to the idea that when attempting to determine what your course of action should be in a given situation, it is important that you consider the potential responses a competitor may use. If you can anticipate how a competitor is likely to react in a situation, you can pick your actions contingent on those potential responses, thus, improving your performance.
Throughout this quantitative analysis of Airbus vs. Boeing, you have been applying the principle, "Look forward, reason back." When you account for the pricing strategy used by Boeing when determining Airbus' pricing strategy, you are applying this principle. When you consider the outcomes of the pricing competition between Airbus and Boeing while deciding whether to launch a new jumbo jet, you are once again making use of this important principle. When you attempt to figure out whether Airbus should launch the A3XX based on Boeing's potential responses to Airbus' strategy, once again you are "looking forward (to Boeing's response), and reasoning back (to figure out what Airbus should do)." Thus, this fundamental principle is nested throughout the analysis.
Exercising Judgement in the Use of Quantitative Analysis
The exercise of constructing a quantitative model of a business situation is valuable for a number of reasons. First, the act of formulating a model imposes discipline on your thought process. To get a model to "work," you have to be explicit about your assumptions, how those assumptions interact with one another, and how they affect the outcomes in which you are interested. Second, a model is useful in determining what the outcomes of a situation will actually be. If we are making an investment in launching a new product or business, you should be interested in determining what the payoff to the company will be. Having an answer to this question is critical to understanding whether the new product was a good investment or not. Finally, a quantitative model of a business situation is important to assessing the risks associated with the investment as well as the sensitivity of the investment to the assumptions underlying our decision-making process. Assessing the risks associated with an investment decision is where judgement meets analysis, and this is your final task in formulating a recommendation for Airbus and Boeing.
No model is perfect, and a model should not be judged on the basis of whether or not it captures every single detail in the "real world." The important issue is whether or not the model captures the factors that are most relevant in determining outcomes. However, you need to learn how to balance the imperfections of the model against your own personal experience and judgement. Ultimately, this is what managerial decision-making is all about.
Caveats and Risks
So, how do you bring judgement to bear upon these issues? Here, you need to take into account the caveats and risks associated with the model. How reasonable are our projections of total industry demand? What are the risks if that demand does not materialize? What if there are variations in the costs of launching the product?4 What difference does it make whether or not Airbus is subsidized by the European Governments. Such factors could influence decision-making process, and the importance and likelihood of such events should figure into your recommendations. Incorporating such factors into your thinking is about exercising judgement.
Therefore, after you have run through the analysis, try and think about how the assumptions affect the outcomes you forecast. Would changes in any of these assumptions dramatically affect your decision? What other strategic concerns might Airbus and Boeing have which could override the strategy recommended by the quantitative analysis?
One aspect of the model that you need to consider in forming your recommendations is the model of demand and market share imbedded in the analysis. So, let's go over that a little bit. Basically, the demand and market share for commercial aircraft and is driven by two factors: the demand for airline transportation (freight and people) and the operational efficiency of new aircraft versus old. Both of these factors are either directly or indirectly reflected in the spreadsheet model. The total level of demand is a function of the average price levels of the firm. So, as the price for aircraft goes up, the expected level of demand goes down. Second, airlines decide whose aircraft they will buy based on who provides the best efficiency advantage. In this model, your market share is equal to the efficiency advantage you provide relative to your competitors. Having this factor included in the model means that Airbus has slightly more pricing flexibility relative to Boeing because the A3XX is 20% more efficient than the Boeing according to case. However, we can assume that such an advantage disappears if Boeing launches a new plane. This leads to another point. The model explicitly assumes that operational efficiency is the only form of differentiation advantage available to Airbus and Boeing, but there are others. For example, we might expect the design of the passenger cabin, etc. would be important to Airbus' and Boeing's customers, the airlines. In addition, Boeing probably has more brand name and reputation capital than Airbus. After all, the 747 has been flying for 30 years with one of the lowest accident records of any aircraft. These are just a few examples of the types of issues you can think about. Obviously, given the constraint that your paper should only be about five pages long, you can't write about everything, and you need to prioritize your analysis. But, it is good practice to think in pretty broad terms about these issues.
Conclusion
So, there you go - That you should get you started. Our expectation is that each group will turn in a five-page analysis of the case (double-spaced). Your written analysis should briefly state the issue confronting Airbus or Boeing (depending on which group you are in), undertake an analysis of that issue (your written analysis should in some sense build off of your quantitative analysis of the case), and finally, make recommendations on what Airbus or Boeing should do. In addition, please e-mail your instructor a copy of your spreadsheet file. The name of the file should be of the form, "Airbus Team ?.xls" or "Boeing Team ?.xls"
This is a complex assignment. If you need any further assistance, do not hesitate contacting your instructor. The quantitative analysis is intended to facilitate, not hamper your analysis. Also, please make sure that everyone is involved. Don't just hand the financial analysis off to one person.
One last comment. Variable costs are driven by learning curve efficiencies. Fixed costs are driven by capital costs.


1 Everything you need to know or consider in formulating your analysis can be found in the case, "Collision Course in Commercial Aircraft: Boeing-Airbus-McDonnell Douglas - 1991," and the article, "Super Jumbo," from the Economist. Both items should be in your case packet.

2 The odd-numbered teams should make recommendations regarding Airbus' strategy; the even-numbered teams should concentrate on Boeing.

3 Thus, you can see that there are four different scenarios: 1) Airbus launches, Boeing doesn't lauch; 2) Airbus launches, Boeing launches; 3) Airbus doesn't launch, Boeing does; and 4) Airbus doesn't launch, and Boeing doesn't either.

4 If you consider the discrepancies in the projections reported in the case, the "Superjumbo" article, and the market forecast on Boeing's webpage, there would seem to be plenty of uncertainty about what is going to happen.


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