It was clear the connected car was the talk of the 2014 North American Intl. Auto Show in Detroit this past week. While much of the conversation centered on advances in connectivity in the latest vehicles, concerns were raised about how much data automakers can collect from consumers as cars become more synched to the Internet. There was also discussion about who will own the data and what OEMs (original-equipment manufacturers) are doing with all the personal information that is being collected?

Let’s be clear we’ve been asking these questions for quite some time now, but it wasn’t until CES that we might finally be getting some real answers. And it seems lawmakers want answers too. I guess you could say Jim Farley, executive vice president of marketing and sales at Ford, www.ford.com, has stirred up a hornet’s nest when he suggested at CES a couple of weeks earlier that the automaker uses GPS devices in vehicles to collect personal data about its drivers.

While Farley is now backpedalling on his statements today, I find it kind of ironic. It’s just funny to me that much of corporate America just hasn’t figured it out that if they are hiding something the truth eventually comes out. It might take some time, but the truth always prevails. You know why, because there are always a few people that have peacocks in their employ. These are the individuals that just can’t help but show all their colors. They are the ones that want to display how much they know and they love to strut their stuff. They want the world to see how special their company is compared to other kids on the block and as a result they say something they really didn’t want the rest of us to hear.

That was the case of Ford. The carmaker didn’t hesitate to tell everyone in the audience at CES that if you are driving one of its vehicles, it will know that you are breaking the law and when you are breaking the law. Farley added, however, the data is kept confidential.

My first question to all of you reading this blog is are you buying into the story that an automaker is collecting all of this information, but has no intention of doing anything with it? Why collect? Why go through the expense? Why go through the time? Are we all really expected to believe any of this? Really? Here’s my point, why tell everyone you know this? Why track it, if you don’t plan to use it? And who are you kidding?

As I see it, this is a PR disaster, not only for this OEM, but for the entire auto industry. This just makes consumers distrust the automakers and compounds the entire big brother fears that exist today. Rather than taking a step forward and educating consumers on the real benefits of Big Data, this marketing exec’s blistering bravado did nothing, but create FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt).

Perhaps carmakers need to spend more time educating and less time creating FUD. The good news in all of this is that connectivity goes hand-in-hand when you talk about a vehicle these days. It’s evident you really can’t talk about a car and not talk about infotainment, convenience, and safety: these are all the ingredients that make up a connected car. More car companies need to talk about Big Data openly and honestly. Carmakers need to explain what is being tracked and why.

Car buying is no longer just about speed, power, and performance at traditional car shows. We all know that is why shows like CES are growing in popularity. It’s even more exciting to see the traditional car shows talking tech. Technology needs to be a key element of every show. That is exactly why we put the Connected World Conference inside the Chicago Auto Show, February 8-17, to keep the tech story growing. But after the Ford fiasco it’s obvious the industry has a long way to go. For every step forward it seems to take two backward, and you wonder why consumers fear Big Brother. Now the Jeannie is out of the bottle, and it wouldn’t hurt if the industry as a whole helped clean up the mess that Ford has created if it wants to get consumers on board about the connected car and Big Data.

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