In the 1980s, Embraer and Saab were in a fierce dispute over orders for their two regional turboprops, the EMB-120 Brasilia and SF-340 (still at the time of the partnership with Fairchild).
The two aircraft had a similar capacity, between 30 and 34 seats, which put them at a disadvantage compared to the Franco-Italian model ATR 42. Still, the Swedes ended up winning the fight with the Brazilians, getting 459 orders for their plane against just 354 units of the EMB-120.
To expand their presence in the market, both decided to launch larger versions of these planes, but while the Swedish company developed the Saab 2000 turboprop, Embraer bet on the jet when creating the ERJ family.
The Embraer jet hit the market in 1997 and became a success while Saab dealt with the failure of its aircraft line. The Saab 2000 sold just 63 units while Embraer jets accumulated more than 1,200 orders. Without buyers of its commercial airplanes, Saab gave up competing in the civilian market in the late 1990s when it ended production of the turboprop family.
This week, however, news emerged that Saab would be one of Embraer’s potential partners in the development of a new passenger turboprop. The aircraft, according to the Brazilian company, will occupy a niche with greater passenger capacity, offering between 70 and 100 seats.
According to Reuters sources, Saab would be in talks with Embraer to participate in a joint venture in the project, whose development cost is expected to reach $2 billion. The company, however, vehemently denies interest: “Saab has no plans to restart the development and production of civil aircraft,” a spokesman told the agency.
Currently, Saab is focused on the defense market, especially in its main product, the Gripen fighter. It is not by chance that the aircraft has the Brazilian Air Force as its costumer, which will receive 36 units in the coming years.
As part of the agreement, Embraer is a partner in the development and production of the fighter, which reinforced rumors that the proximity between the two manufacturers may be a sign of a possible understanding regarding the turboprop project.
Despite speculation, the new plane is still far from becoming reality. Arjan Meijer, Commercial Aviation Chief Executive at Embraer, told Reuters that a launch decision should not take place until 2021.