News that Peugeot is finally pull-ing the plug on its factory at Ryton, near Coventry, is another body blow for the West Midlands' automotive industry.

It comes just over a year after MG Rover closed with the loss of 6,000 jobs at Longbridge and 10,000 in total.

It means that Coventry, once the Detroit of Britain, is losing its last volume car producer.

Peugeot - as a Coventry brand - is going the way of the likes of Standard, Triumph, Alvis, Hill-man, Humber, and dozens more.

And Jaguar, of course.

Production ceased at Browns Lane last year as part of a revamp of the loss-making luxury marque which now builds its cars at Castle Bromwich and Halewood on Merseyside.

"Motor City" now only has one manufacturer left - London Taxis International which makes the famous black cabs at the old Carbodies factory in Holyhead Road.

The fact the death sentence for Ryton had been expected for some time does not make yesterday's announcement any more palatable.

The signs were there for all to read. The number of shifts at the old Rootes Group plant - which began life in the Second World War as a "shadow" factory making aero engines - had been progressively whittled down from four to two.

Parent group PSA Peugeot Citroen had left the question of what car it would build at Ryton once the plants model, the 206, comes to the end of its production life hanging in the air for more than a year.

Offers of cash to help for further development of Ryton were not taken up.

The only certainty was that wherever PSA was thinking of investing its euros in future it wasn't going to be in the comparatively high cost countries of western Europe.

After all, average manufacturing wage costs top $32 an hour in France and Germany, $24 in Britain and just 61 cents in China.

PSA, like every other car company in the world, is having to make some tough decisions in an industry where the only certainty is that uncertainty will increase.

Plant capacity throughout the world has resulted in an industry that is capable of making five cars for every four it has customers for.

Competition between the global players has passed beyond the mere cut-throat to the downright savage.

Today's buyers who regard the cars they drive as a vital expression of their lifestyle are becoming ever more critical, which means that models have an increasingly short shelf life.

That means astronomical sums of money need to be found not just to develop new cars within ever shorter lead times, but also to ensure the lines that produce them are at the absolute cutting edge of efficiency and productivity.

All of which raises the question of how much longer the West Midlands will have a car industry.

The answer has to be: a long time.

At Solihull, Land Rover is in a new golden era and is enjoying the biggest sales boom of its 58-year history.

Questions have been posed about the Lode Lane's productivity and quality, but these are well on the way to being improved to the point of satisfying Land Rover's paymasters at Ford's Detroit HQ.

BMW is ramping up production at its Hams Hall engine plant in North Warwickshire and at Plant Oxford, where it makes the popular Mini.

Toyota, on the West Midlands' doorstep at Burnaston, near Derby, is now beginning to see its investment and patience yield rewards.

Back in Birmingham, LDV seems to have recovered from its cash crisis and is finding customers for its Maxus van.

Post-Peugeot, the biggest doubts must now centre on Jaguar, whose sales have been squeezed heavily by competitors such as Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.

Ford is adamant that it is committed to continuing its investment, but industry rumours that it is looking to offload Jaguar are rife.

Bearing in mind that all the key decisions affecting the West Midlands are being made in Detroit, Munich, Tokyo and Paris, what can the region do to help itself?

Simply this. It must ensure that it continues to convert its supply chain companies into high added value players; step up its efforts to ensure the growth a new generation of automotive engineers capable of competing with the best in the world, and to continue to offset its higher costs by raising productivity to ever higher levels.

The BMWs and Toyotas of this world have high praise for their Midland workforces. We must continue to justify their faith.