Britain's automotive industry is alive and well despite the poor September registrations, according to Professor Garel Rhys, director of the Centre for Automotive Industry Research.

In a seminar on the future of the UK industry, Prof Rhys stressed 28% of UK car plants' output was bought in Britain and - to state the obvious - 72% exported.

"The automotive industry accounts for 9.5% of UK exports by value and UK factories make 3% of global production and 9% of European production. It is the foreign buyer who keeps the UK factories going, not the home market," added Rhys.

However, annual UK registrations of 2.6 million are the fourth largest in the world and it's possible the national parc will hit 30 million by 2007.

He urged suppliers at the seminar to invest in research and development and said: "There are problems but the industry is far from dead and the only question is what'll it look like a few years from now? There are signs for hope."

Professor Jon King, director of seminar host Corus Automotive, urged suppliers to work together from concept to creation.

"Although there is partnership in the automotive industry at vehicle manufacturing level I don't think it extends sufficiently down the supply chain. Suppliers have the ability to provide solutions for car makers and if we work in partnership we can help meet targets."

Robin Roberts