February 15, 2016
When China enters a market, the intention is to destroy indigenous competition. From American to Nigerian to Turkish textile jobs — all down 90 percent — local earning power is destroyed. Everywhere and in every area — again it’s steel, aluminum, solar panels, toys and electronics — China hollows out local production.
There was a time when I could take this sort of breathless propaganda seriously, but something happened recently: Mooney rolled out the M20V Ultra.
For those not in the know, Chinese were gobbing up the basement of the aviation industry in the U.S. for many years now, and they are quite brazen about it. One historic anecdote is that when they bought Cirrus and sent the occupation team in, workers put up a big banner "Welcome Our Chinese Partners!" The Chinese were outraged. We are OWNERS not partners, they said, and ordered the banner taken down immediately.
The Chinese purchase of Mooney was met with a large skepticism. Everyone knew that Mooney was done, over, finished. The product was too old, too expensive to make. The notional purchaser, Mr. Chen, was secretive about the source of his money. Everyone in the industry thought he was either clueless or a scammer. Then, the company rolled out the model M10 - a revolutionary airplane for them, but made in California, not Texas, and revealed in Zhuhai, China. Ah-ha, cried the skeptics. Now we know - Chen wants to take the American expertize and build airplanes in China! Well, 2016 comes in and Mooney in Texas announce a major renovation to the factory, a major advance for the M20 line with the M20V Ultra. It was not just the new door and the composite shell, but also the new electrics and electronics that comprise a large part of the cost.
In other words, a Chinese overlord rescued a storied American company that American investors bailed upon, made it make new and exciting products that are world class again. In addition, the new composite production in California helps along the traditional manufacturing in Texas. This was not what the narrative taught us.
Meanwhile in Minnesota and South Dakota they are getting ready to the imminent certification of Cirrus SF50 - an amazing personal jet, the likes of which the world has not seen. If that's what slaving under the yoke of Chinese is like, perhaps it's not that bad. I've seen worse coming from New York schuisters when they took over companies.
All that is quite far from "hollowing local production". Now, granted, the new Chinese owners may be incompetent; the investments are risky. Mooney, Cirrus, Teledyne/Continental, and any number of their other aviation ventures in the U.S. may yet fail — they have failed already on their own once or more. But at least we'll get a Mooney with the pilot's door, which is a net positive in my book.
UPDATE: First flight on June 6, 2016, by the Ovation Ultra version with Mike Miles at the controls.
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