The Midlands has manufacturing in its genes and can survive the eastward shift to lower cost economies, it has been claimed.
The heritage of the region stood it in good stead to weather the current problems but firms must look to a wider, more global canvas, said Malcolm Bird, the new chairman of the supply chain initiative Accelerate.
Mr Bird, who is also director of quality and sustainable development at GKN Drive-line, said the Midlands still had a future.
He said: "Our firms need to be specialist and low volume, which we have a reputation for here in the Midlands.
"But there will also be a place for the larger volumes. Most people in the world desire to own a car, more so than a house, because it gives them freedom.
" If you do away with low cost mass produced cars, what are people going to drive? We talk about lean, but Toyota at Burnaston collects from their suppliers four times a day. They carry 12 hours stock, that's all. How many of our suppliers are working to that level?"
Jaguar and Land Rover had a bright future because they too were specialist marques, said Mr Bird.
"People are negative about the UK car industry, but it is still a significant employer and generates a lot of money.
"The automotive industry adds value and diversity to the UK economy, and we still have one of the largest automotive industries in Europe, and we are still in the top five in world terms."
Mr Bird said the UK was particularly strong in motor racing - where many innovations were first developed.
"We have a tradition of engineering, and we are seen as innovative. GM for example sends people over to the UK to look at small companies for ideas and innovations."
The first Longbridge crisis of 2000 was a wake up call for local industry, which had survived that and its sequel, the collapse of MG Rover last year.
Mr Bird said: "We have completed the first stage of the recovery by protecting the supply base; the next stage is corrective action to move to more sustainable manufacturing.
"It is a global industry and we need to engage with it or it will kill us. We always need to win new business.
"It is not an easy industry and life out there is tough, but there are opportunities for those who are prepared to go all out. The car industry is not going to go away."
Mr Bird said the Midlands had engineering in its blood - as shown by his experience at Turves Green School for girls in Northfield which has been garlanded with engineering wards.
He said: "It does not matter what the problem is, we can overcome it.
"We are really strong with people; there are three guys who have set up a company working on hybrid engines. They could have become vehicle consultants, but they want to develop their own company, here in the Midlands.
"Birmingham is the centre of the manufacturing universe."