A leading automotive expert called Nashville “the capital of the new American auto industry” and urged its leaders Thursday to pay close attention to three major trends unfolding at the same time.

Paul Ingrassia, managing editor of Reuters and a Pulitzer Prize-winning automotive industry journalist and author, said there are significant changes on the way in the way car engines work, in the use of satellite communications technology and in the emerging development of unmanned vehicles.

“Three simultaneous technological revolutions are sweeping across the global auto industry. They all have significant social implications as well as industry implications. And they’re occurring against the backdrop of an industry that is enjoying a rare state of prosperity … in most major markets around the globe.”

Tennessee cannot remain stagnant if it wants to continue to see growth among automotive manufacturers and suppliers, which now have a presence in nearly every county, Ingrassia said.

“There’s a lot of experimentation going on right now,” he said.

The AutoConnect event was created last year to improve understanding of industry trends and bring together car makers, suppliers, financiers and legislative experts.

“The market is back,” said Robert Sartin, co-chair of the automotive team for the Frost Brown Todd law firm, which organized the event. “The question is, what can be done to sustain that?”

Sartin said success depends on different segments working together. For example, right now the demand for new vehicles is up, but their parts are not being manufactured fast enough.

Ingrassia said that for the first time since he started covering the industry in the mid-1980s none of the top-tier auto-makers is on the brink of bankruptcy. “Today almost all the major companies are posting solid financial results, and some frankly are better than solid,” he said

Because it is centrally located, Tennessee is positioned to reap the benefit of the widespread economic recovery in the automotive industry, Sartin said. That, in turn, helps other parts of the country.

“This region is so important to the industry,” he said.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, in the keynote address, told auto industry leaders that Tennessee must stay the course if it wants to remain attractive to auto manufacturers and suppliers. That means maintaining good roads, improving job skill training and protecting the right-to-work law, which limits the power of unions.

“They’re three pretty obvious things,” he said.

The Republican leader, who is running for another term, was governor in the early 1980s when Nissan built a massive plant in Smyrna. Others have followed.

Alexander said the state must not mess with what works if it wants to continue to see growth. “We’re pretty proud of our state, where we’ve come from, but we’re more excited about where we’re going,” he said.