PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus has not sold its last production slot for the current version of its A330 jet in 2019, but is confident of filling gaps in the production line for the rest of that year with further sales, finance director Harald Wilhelm said on Thursday.
The European planemaker is adequately covered with orders to sustain its planned production rate of six aircraft per month, he said, but suggested it has shelved for now plans to partially restore a recent output cut by going back to seven a month.
Airbus earlier reported lower first-quarter profits due in part to weak pricing on end-of-line models, and Wilhelm told analysts this was particularly related to the A330. Old versions are being sold cheaply as Airbus switches to the newer A330neo.
Addressing concerns over the learning curve for its new A350 jet, Wilhelm said the so-called cost convergence as Airbus raises its output of the jet was a "top challenge" for 2017.
Planemakers must meet targets for reductions in cost as they become more familiar with a new aircraft, or enter a damaging situation in which they produce higher volumes at high costs.
Wilhelm said on a conference call that the inventory, which rose significantly in the first quarter due to delays in deliveries of the A320neo, should peak around the end of the year.
(Changes "will run out of orders" to "has not sold its last production slot" in paragraph 1)
Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and David Evans