Duluth-based Cirrus Aircraft announced Tuesday it opened a sales hub in New Delhi, India, the latest in a series of international expansions designed to sell more small private planes and win orders for an upcoming single-engine jet.
The new venture, dubbed Cirrus India, is expected to tap into the wallets of wealthy Indian citizens and corporations wanting fast travel in the form of its four-seater SR-20 and SR-22 planes. Cirrus, Minnesota’s only plane manufacturer, is also taking orders for its $1.96 million, seven-seat luxury jet and its new digital Accelero prop plane. Both products come out next year.
“We are excited to have Cirrus India as a Cirrus Aircraft Sales Center as we enter this very important emerging market,” said Adam Hahn, a Cirrus sales director.
In the last year, Cirrus also opened sales offices or partnerships in Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Panama and the United Kingdom. That flurry of activity builds on Cirrus’ past international reaches into Canada, Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, Colombia, Dominican Republic, France, Germany and Greece, as well as China and the Czech Republic.
The new expansions are quite a turnaround for a company whose founder, Dale Klapmeier, wasn’t sure could survive the 2008 recession, when it saw a 65 percent drop in orders. The company’s employment fell from 1,380 in 2008 to 500 in 2012. “We were very nervous. It was far beyond nervous,” Klapmeier recalled in an interview last year.
Cirrus was purchased by China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co. in June 2011. That firm’s $100 million infusion breathed new life and energy back into the company. Klapmeier said it meant Cirrus was “thinking about the future and what we can do rather than thinking about life as survival.”
Last year, Cirrus sought to hire 180 workers and sped up plans to introduce the jet. It also launched a Generation 5 plane capable of carrying 220 more pounds than past models.
The investment appeared to pay off as Cirrus Aircraft delivered 276 planes last year, a 10 percent jump from 2012 and its best performance since 2008.
As competitors exited the market or gave up planes for their own single-engine jet, Cirrus’ market share for four- and five-seat planes climbed to 37 percent, executives said.