The change in the Latitude’s range – also driven by customer input – was another example, and Thress notes that was a significant but important change. “We are listening to our customers more intently,” Thress says, adding that Cessna is trying to incorporate their feedback as much as possible.
In fact, Cessna is so focused on customer feedback that it is beginning to test market new concepts, rather than keep such projects under wraps until they are formally launched. During the most recent Experimental Aircraft Association convention in Oshkosh, Wis., Cessna began to solicit feedback on a small single-turboprop aircraft.
Then, during the most recent NBAA convention in Orlando, Fla., the company began soliciting input on an interior for a potential new family of light jets with a bigger cabin that would compete with Embraer.
Cessna President and CEO Scott Ernest said during NBAA that the company plans to actively seek public feedback on all of its new concepts in the future. “That’s the way we will go.”
The programs will help fill empty capacity at Cessna, which has shrunk its workforce by almost half since the downturn and watched as its jet sales fell from 467 in 2008 to 183 last year.
But executives are encouraged by the early returns for its new products. “We’re seeing significant commitments,” Thress says. Cessna has maintained that the light and midsized jet market has remained a “spot market” for sales – gone are the days of lengthy waits for models in those classes. Even so, Sovereign interest picked up with the announcement of the new aircraft, the first year of the new X is sold out and the M2 is sold into its third year.
The Latitude, meanwhile, secured its spot as a midsized offering for the new NetJets fleet. The fractional ownership provider has placed an order for up to 150 of the aircraft.
This comes as the market has stabilized, and the company sees some strengthening metrics, such as used inventory. Once the market picks up, Thress says, “We’ll be in a nice place with a new product pipeline.”