High-tech research and development offer the only lifeline to the Midlands beleaguered car industry, a panel of experts has warned.
Speaking at the launch of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce's new manifesto for business in 2005, Steve Brittain, chief executive of manufacturing firm BSA Tools, said job losses at Coventry's Peugeot plant were part of the " inevitable" decline of automotive manufacturing in the wake of unsustainable competition from China.
Mr Brittain said: "The industry needs to up-skill, re-educate and focus on research and development into new products.
"There will be immediate job losses and some workers will, unfortunately, be unable to retrain but we need to look at the bigger picture.
"More jobs could be created in the region if we move up the technology curve ahead of the competition."
Mr Brittain's sentiments were echoed by other members of the panel who were part of a committee outlining the concerns of the Birmingham business community for 2005.
Sir Bernard Zissman said that manufacturing in the UK was changing and whilst the decline of
automotive manufacturing was "traumatic for those involved", people had to realise that the concept of "a job for life" was dead.
The panel also addressed MG Rover's current financial crisis.
Mr Brittain said: "I see no alternative but for MG Rover to transfer all its production to China.
"Shanghai Automotive are looking for a name and a design and MG Rover fits the bill. There is a far greater demand for the product in China than on our gridlocked roads.
"Rover could really benefit from the move and, in the long-term, could expand and eventually increase jobs in the West Midlands."
Chairman of the Chamber's policy working group, Gordon Cowie, said: "Despite the grief we may feel in the passing of of our dearly beloved activities, we need to move on.
"Birmingham has, in some respects, been living off the tail end of the first big industrial revolution. If we want to live in a 21st century city, we must make some contribution to the second that is currently under way."
The event, held at KPMG's Birmingham office, brought business leaders together to debate the issues addressed in the Chamber's first manifesto entitled The New Business Revolution.
The document outlines what the Chamber believes are issues of particular importance in Birmingham business and will be used to lobby both local and national politicians.
The agenda tackled wide-ranging issues including the need to invest in Birmingham's road and rail infrastructure, granting business crime the same recognition as domestic crime, providing energy security for the region and highlighting the need to cut excessive Government regulation.
As part of the manifesto the Chamber is calling on the Government to adopt a two-year moratorium on new business regulation to allow time to assess existing red tape and to devise a new, more efficient system.