The West Midlands is poised to become part of Ford's global nerve centre for research into greener cars under multi-million pound plans being revealed today.
Much of the research and development work to be carried out by the US-owned group, the world's third largest carmaker behind Toyota and General Motors, will take place in the region, The Birmingham Post understands.
The West Midlands is already home to two major Ford research centres, Whitley in Coventry and Gaydon in Warwickshire.
The company's Premier Automotive Group also builds the bulk of its output of Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin luxury cars here.
Ford last night was keeping details of the announcement under wraps ahead of the official launch of the project in London today.
Someone familiar with the project said: "This is going to be a really big, multi-million pound announcement and the West Midlands will benefit from it."
The move will be a major boost for the UK automotive industry following the collapse last year of MG Rover, the impending shutdown of Peugeot's Ryton plant near Coventry and GM's decision to scrap a shift at Vauxhall Astra plant at Ellesmere Port.
It comes on the eve of the 2006 British International Motor Show which will see 13 new models unveiled, including Land Rover's new Freelander.
Ford's investment in the UK is in stark contrast with the situation in the US, its home market, where up to 30,000 manufacturing jobs are to be axed and 14 factories closed in a bid to stem massive financial losses.
The race is on to bring to the market reliable and affordable cars powered either by petrol/electric hybrids or by alternative fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.
Ford is believed to have rejected a proposal to build a new stand-alone research centre in favour of expanding facilities at its UK sites, which includes a centre at Dunton in Essex as well as Gaydon and Whitely in the West Midlands.
Meanwhile, Chinese manufacturer Nanjing Automobile will be announcing details today of its plans to resume production at Long-bridge, Birmingham, the former home of MG Rover whose assets it has acquired.
Nanjing last week surprised many by declaring plans to build a new generation of MG sports cars in Oklahoma.
In what is set to be a busy week for the automotive industry, executives of Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre should find out what chance the city has of clawing back the British International Motor Show from London.
The 2006 event opens its doors to the public at ExCel Centre in Docklands on Thursday after two days of press and trade previews.
The NEC had staged the biennial event since 1978 but lost out in the bidding for the 2006 show to ExCel which secured a ten-year deal from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
While the London venue is pulling out all the stops to make the event a success, including staging rock shows and waterborne entertainments on the adjacent Royal Victoria Dock, critics say its location and prices will rule the show out for many would-be visitors.
"Docklands is not easy an easy place to get and not even Londoners like going there," one automotive industry insider said.
"If you are travelling from anywhere further away than the Midlands and the south of England it will involve an overnight stay and that will make it far too expensive for the average family.
"You could get to and from the NEC in a day from virtually anywhere the country.
"I think the show will struggle to hit its target of 500,000 visitors."
There has been speculation that the SMMT has included in its contract with ExCel a clause that will allow it to pull out of the venue if this year's event does not come up to expectations.
"We will be watching and looking to see what needs to be done to bring the Motor Show back to Birmingham," a spokeswoman for the NEC said.