As you may have heard, it seems Cessna is getting out of the LSA business. This recent announcement pretty much clears up exactly what CEO Scott Earnest meant when he indicated the Skycatcher had no future at the NBAA convention in October.
How you feel about this really depends on your take on Cessna and LSA in general, but I don’t think anybody can truly say they are surprised. Not to beat a dead horse, but the Skycatcher just didn’t have much hope. I think Flying is partially correct in their assertion that “a ghost doomed the Skycatcher,” but I don’t think that’s the only problem. I don’t think LSA have taken off like we all hoped they would, but I don’t think that doomed the Cessna 162. In my mind, the 162 fell victim to 3 major pitfalls: better competitors, poor manufacturing decisions, and a shift in corporate vision.
While I generally liked the Cessna 162, it was far from ideal as an LSA. Not to mention, it definitely didn’t hold a candle to the (in)famous Cessna 150/152 or 120/140 that are so prevalent across the country in spite of production having ended in 1985. Not taking non-LSA competitors, like the Cessna 152, into account, there are a plethora of cheaper, better performing, less limited LSA. Bottom line, the only thing the Skycatcher really had going for it versus other LSA was the name Cessna. Unfortunately, Cessna just didn’t hold up its end of the bargain for this little flier.
Poor manufacturing decisions
As someone who has a decent understanding of Chinese manufacturing culture as it relates to electronics, I know that (depending on your choice of partner) it is quite possible to save money and get decent stuff made in China, but in this case I really don’t think it worked out. I can’t say I know what it looks like from an accounting perspective, but from a PR perspective and a time perspective, making the Cessna 162 in China was a mistake. While Cessna struggled to convince the many critics of this strategy, the Cessna 162 was slowly killed by the inability of Cessna or their Chinese partner to actually deliver the over 1,000 units they had “sold.” Not to mention the price increased by almost %40, wiping out a good chunk of the money Cessna aimed to save by producing in China and opening the floodgates for people to find greener pastures. The end result? Cessna owns about one third of the less than 300 Cessna 162s produced.
Shift in corporate vision
I think the biggest black mark for the entire experiment is Cessna’s shift to big name bizjet manufacturer. The piston single is still hugely important as a primary training aircraft and I doubt seriously that Cessna will get out of that market completely, but I get the feeling that they would much rather cash the big checks from turbine buyers. Just take a look at their website, which gleefully proclaims they “have your jet.”
I hope this doesn’t sound like me hating the plane. I didn’t hate it, I just can’t honestly say I’m surprised Cessna killed it.