Despite “horrendous” economic conditions, “Armageddon can wait”, Jaguar Land Rover chief executive David Smith has declared.

In an upbeat speech to business leaders from across the West Midlands, he said he had “not lost one iota of belief in the brilliant future” of the company or the region.

Mr Smith was speaking against a backdrop of growing crisis for the global automotive industry.

With carmakers slashing production volumes by as much as 30 per cent, there are fears that a financial meltdown at General Motors could put thousands of jobs at risk at the Detroit group’s UK Vauxhall plants at Luton and Ellesmere Port.

GM announced on Friday that it racked up a third-quarter deficit of $4.2 billion and was cutting next year’s capital budget by $2.5 billion in the teeth of plummeting sales figures.

In his speech to the annual meeting of regional development agency Advantage West Midlands, Mr Smith said: “We need to be realistic about the next eighteen months. They will be very tough and painful.

“No business, and certainly not one like ours, will be able to isolate itself from the world economic climate.

“So times are very challenging but as far as I am concerned Armageddon can wait.

“For whatever the serious short-term problems we face, I remain convinced we have a huge opportunity in front of us - and possess the ingenuity, talents and commitment to grasp it.

“And that goes not just for Jaguar Land Rover but also the West Midlands.”

Mr Smith, who led industry calls for last week’s dramatic cut in interest rates, said JLR had been transformed into a high tech, high performance, global company.

With annual sales of more than £7 billion it is “only just” smaller than Marks & Spencer and “a whole lot more complex”.

In June, India’s Tata Motors paid just over £1 billion for what Mr Smith described as one of the crown jewels of the West Midland economy.

“I believe, in fact I know, we are worth a lot more. And in the coming years we will prove it.

“And it’s my job as CEO to lead my team to unlock that potential, and I’m sure we’re just a part of the story of the huge unlocked potential of this region as a whole.

“Jaguar Land Rover is one of a handful of truly global businesses headquartered in the region. The opportunities we face as a business are the same as those for the West Midlands economy. Because the truth is the two are totally intertwined.

“To put it bluntly if we succeed then the West Midlands will be more vibrant.”

Tata’s acquisition of JLR is “of huge significance”, Mr Smith went on to say.

“First they have given us all the authority we need to run the business. They’ve recognised we have the people, technology and resources and asked my team to get on with it.

“So Jaguar Land Rover is a whole new business, creating its own position in the world again.”

n Jaguar Land Rover has appointed Chase, part of JP Morgan Chase & Co, to replace Ford as its car finance provider in the US.