Global automotive manufacturers will be able to treat the UK industry like a "political football" after the demise of MG Rover, an industry expert has claimed.

The collapse of the Longbridge firm has left the UK without a local champion which can hold the sector together, Michael Wynn-Williams said.

Even if production is restored in Birmingham by the new owners Nanjing Automobile Corporation, its future could be like Peugeot's doomed Ryton plant - kept working only as long as it is useful to its overseas masters.

This meant the production operations of Jaguar and Land Rover - both owned by Ford - could be vulnerable in the future.

The conclusions feature in a report written by Mr Wynn-Williams, who works for the automotive research company Trend Tracker.

The study, The scale tour-niquet and vertical joint ventures: How MG Rover was strangled examines the demise of the firm which collapsed last April.

He said: "The great tragedy of the MG Rover collapse is not simply the loss of employment, but also the destruction of the last integrated volume manufacturer in the UK.

"This country will continue to be the source of dazzling technical innovation which will feature in cars around the world, but the strategic role in the future of the industry will have been lost.

"Without a local champion holding the British automotive industry together multi-nationals can treat the country like a political football, shifting in functions in and out on a corporate whim.

"Losing this has lost the British voice in the automotive industry."

But while production may shift overseas, Mr Wynn- Williams said he thought the engineering and technical development side would remain in the Britain.

He added he was pleased that NAC had shown "every intention" of returning some production to Longbridge after winning the "undignified" auction for the company.

But he retained some doubts about the long term future for the plant, saying the NAC plan would consign it to the same status as Peugeot's Ryton factory in Coventry - which the French carmaker is closing down.

Mr Wynn-Williams said: "In other words Longbridge will be kept working for as long as it is useful for the global plan.

"However if Nanjing really wants to make something of the British investment and take on the global giants, then the company should also resuscitate MG Rover's engineering prowess.

"Designed in Britain, made in China could be the wake up call the industry needs."

Mr Wynn-Williams's study concludes that MG Rover was too small to compete on a global scale.

In 2004 its final full year of production, output fell to 108,000 cars compared with 3.1 million at Honda for example.

This meant higher production costs per unit and less funding available for research and development.

Mr Wynn-Williams said: "In the automotive industry economies of scale are so huge that it is said that barely six global manufacturers can survive.

"Hindsight tells us the MG Rover experiment was doomed since this is an industry where big is not enough; only massive will do.

"So oppressive has this morbid view been that in Britain we were blind to what we had. MG Rover had genuine capabilities, and for a brief period there were potential partners who thought so to.

"If the Government had known that the companies were poised to break the hegemony of the global industry they might have given the support MG Rover deserved and the British automotive industry would have kept its seat at the top table."