The automotive industry in the West Midlands probably closed the year stronger than it started out - even with Jaguar and Land Rover about to be offloaded by Ford, and the ongoing soap opera down at Longbridge.

Here goes: at the beginning of 2007, Jaguar sales were plummeting - hurt by the crash in the value of the dollar hitting its US exports, and taking a pasting from more contemporary rivals from Lexus, BMW and Audi.

The S-Type was coming to the end of its life and the X-Type never managed to free itself of its Mondeo-with-a-Jag-badge albatross.

But lo - out comes the XF - the new Castle Bromwich-built saloon which has had rave reviews and has already secured several thousand orders before it even enters the showrooms in March.

Meanwhile Land Rover has continued to storm ahead, and at the last count was on course to enter its 60th year selling more than 200,000 vehicles for the first time.

Sales of the Discovery and the Range Rover Sport have apparently flipped, with the more expensive (and more profitable) Range Rover selling more than the Discovery, which must be good news for everyone at the Solihull factory.

The firm is also looking to head off some of the critics of its 'Chelsea Tractor' image with its LRX smaller Land Rover concept car which could go into production.

Meanwhile both companies are set to change ownership - with Tata the likely winner. While Ford has generally been a pretty good custodian of the two firms, it has its own battles to fight in the US and can't really be spending its management time and resources on two companies which are at best peripheral to its long-term survival.

Tata apparently is in for the long haul and, with a market capitalisation of $76.3 billion as of December 27, is no minnow.

It can help the two companies grow and develop, much as Aston Martin has under new ownership in 2007, although there are significant challenges.

Land Rover for one has to improve its product quality, and while Jaguar may now have a world-beating car, it still has to sell them.

Meanwhile Nanjing Automobile's plans to revive MG edged painfully closer, but there were clearly some problems - probably funding related - which meant a host of delays.

Shanghai Automotive's Boxing Day acquisition of Nanjing adds a bit more financial muscle to the Chinese plans to revive production at Longbridge, and maybe even develop new cars to build there.

There is also an intriguing twist to all this.

With MG more likely to return this year, will Tata's acquisition of Jaguar-Land Rover include the ultimate revival of the Rover brand - either here or India?

The name was acquired by Ford to protect Land Rover, so ultimately it could go to Tata.

After all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, 2008 could see the beginnings of MG and Rover, under Chinese and Indian ownership respectively. Let's all hope they will have a happier time of it than the previous incumbents.