Reports of the death of the Midlands car industry have been greatly exaggerated, a former president of Ford and ex-boss of Jaguar said yesterday.
Sir Nick Scheele, retired president of automotive operations for Ford, said that - in contrast to the US - car manufacturing in the region was "stabilising" and the future looked bright.
"The region is still the UK's centre of automotive manufacturing," he said. "We've seen Toyota investing in its Burnaston factory and Jaguar has secured production in the West Midlands by moving the XJ and XK to Castle Bromwich.
"I believe car manufacturing in the region is stabilising.
"Obviously one can never be 100 per cent confident of the future. However, the key is to keep satisfying customers and this is exactly what the region's manufacturers are doing."
Sir Nick made his comments as he took up his appointment as Coventry Transport Museum's first president.
Sir Nick, who lives near Coventry, said he was delighted to accept the role, which will see him acting as an ambassador for the museum.
"I am honoured," he said. "I have been associated with the region for a considerable time and am already an ambassador for Coventry.
"This, combined with my 38-year involvement in transport, makes it a perfect position for me."
He said the museum was a testament not only to transport but to Coventry's manufacturing industry.
"Coventry is a tremendous example of diversification - it used its experience of making cogs for watches to manufacture bicycle components and, in turn, this gave rise to the motor industry."
He said that, far from being dead, industry in Coventry and across the region continued to diversify and thrive.
He particularly praised the region's universities, which he said were helping provide the expertise to keep manufacturing on track.
"The West Midlands is blessed with first-class universities that are training people from across the world who want to stay in the region," he said.
"Coventry University has an incredibly active school of automotive design.
"This brain-power is intrinsic to our future success and, combined with over 150 years of manufacturing experience, means the region is still very much in demand."
Sir Nick, a former chief executive of Jaguar, said he believed Land Rover was flourishing under Ford.
"Land Rover has expanded substantially," he said. "The new Freelander is due out soon and we've seen the new Range Rover and Discovery. There has been a substantial rise in exports."
He was equally upbeat about Jaguar, despite a recent decline in sales.
"The sales dip at Jaguar was planned for," he said. "The big issue now is for the company to return to profit.
"But Jaguar has a talented management team behind it and I am convinced it is going to turn the corner."
Sir Nick singled out the new XK and XJ diesel models for particular praise.
"Jaguar has received glowing reviews for the new XK and it is clearly going to be a success," he said. "I am also incredibly impressed with the XJ Diesel - which I drive.
"The combination of a diesel V6 engine with an XJ is tremendous."
However, Sir Nick was less optimistic about the troubles being experienced by Ford's US arm, which yesterday saw its top sales analyst predict a further decline in its market share.
Along with plummeting sales and rising raw material costs, the group has suffered from the soaring costs of providing pensions and health-care for employees.
"The US is a vicious market at present," Sir Nick said. "The healthcare legacy costs are a huge drag. It's difficult to see how this is going to be resolved and I know they have been forced to reduce capacity."
However, Sir Nick focused on the group sales worldwide.
"The group saw some very positive results from its worldwide operations in 2005 - including its European arm, which has been making a loss for so long.
"If Ford can sort its problems in the US I think this bodes well for the future of the company," he added.