(Reuters) - Boeing Co <BA.N> announced the new sales chief for its commercial airplanes division on Friday as the U.S. planemaker and Europe's Airbus battle over dwindling jet orders.
The Chicago-based company named Ihssane Mounir as vice-president of sales and marketing, succeeding company veteran John Wojick who turned 60 this year and who plans to retire after overseeing record-quick sales of around 5,000 airplanes.
The changeover will take effect early in 2017, Boeing said, confirming a decision first reported by Bloomberg News.
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Mounir, 44, currently spearheads sales in North Asia including China, which has become a key battleground against Europe's Airbus and is on course to overtake the United States as the world's largest aviation market in coming years.
The Moroccan-born engineer, who emigrated to the United States as a teenager and trained as an aerodynamicist, has also been involved in key battles over airplane sales in Japan.
His promotion makes him one of the two most powerful sales executives in aviation alongside Airbus veteran John Leahy, who celebrated Airbus's 10,000th delivery earlier on Friday.
Boeing faces an increasing challenge from Airbus <AIR.PA> in the market for short-haul jets that generate most of the cash for the world's largest planemakers, while defending a lead in the market for long-haul jets.
Industry sources say Leahy, 66, is expected to retire around the end of 2017 or early 2018, with Indian-born salesman Kiran Rao tipped as his most likely successor.
Highlighting the importance of Asia in jetliner competition, market sources say future rivals Mounir and Rao have both racked up significant sales in the region and are seen as low-key negotiators capable of lightning footwork to win a deal.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; editing by Susan Thomas)