When I first started consulting to the automotive industry, executives were still focused on manufacturing. Relationships with suppliers were antagonistic, debates about control\u2014automakers were often pitted against their dealers\u2014fulminated, and when people thought about innovation, they pictured Germany.\n\n\nBut as consumers turned to the Web to shop for cars, automakers began to prioritize competitive differentiation\u2014and the accompanying revenues. Supply chain optimization and demand forecasting continue to be hot topics in automotive, but nowadays being competitive has everything to do with being innovative.\n\n\nAt a recent automotive executive forum, executives compared notes about emerging technology solutions. Most were piloting telematics, researching smart-charging infrastructures, and implementing big data solutions\u2014all components of delivering the \u201cconnected vehicle.\u201d According to McKinsey\u2019s John Newman, who spoke at the event, the overall market for the connected vehicle could reach $230 billion by the year 2020.\n\n\nBut having a connected car means different things to different car buyers. Many of what McKinsey calls \u201cmaxed-out car enthusiasts\u201d want a perpetual Internet connection\u2014delivering streaming data, music, and constant two-way communications with their contact lists, their dealer\u2019s service center, and the manufacturer\u2019s call center. These early-adopters anxiously await self-driving cars\u2014Tesla founder Elon Musk recently announced that \u201cautopilot mode\u201d would be available on the Model S Tesla by this summer. Indeed, the more features the better: personalized voice recognition, whiz-bang interactive windshield dashboards, and biometric retinal scan door locking are all part of the connected vehicle buzz.\n\n\nThe data privacy backlash is only a sensor beam away. The idea of a connected vehicle makes some consumers edgy. The prospect of \u201cthem\u201d\u2014the government, the GPS manufacturers, and the automakers themselves\u2014being able to see where you are when you\u2019re on the road is simply too intrusive for many.\n\n\nEven savvy security experts are nervous. In 2013 Tom Kellermann, an executive with a cybersecurity company, heralded broader consumer privacy concerns by relating his own story:\n\n\n\u201cI bought a new car yesterday. And the guy says, \u2018Hey, man, do you know you can turn on a Wi-Fi hot spot in your car?\u2019 I said, \u2018What the\u2026?\u2019 He said, \u2018Yeah, it\u2019s constantly on, bro, so all you need to do is have any of your passengers synch their devices to it, and you can get high-speed Internet while you are driving!\u2019 I said, \u2018Are you f*cking kidding me? Where is it? Turn it off!\u2019\u201d\u00a0\n\n\nAutomakers, traditionally whipsawed by disruptive change, are nevertheless joining the Internet of Everything juggernaut. But with that comes pervasive access to data about consumers, how they behave, and where they travel, as well as more qualitative extrapolations about why. Dealing with concerns about data availability and access will require car companies to be even more innovative than ever.\n\n\nIt will be interesting to watch how they tackle the challenge, either confronting the privacy issue head-on, or instead avoiding the issue by pitching the connected vehicle to a narrower customer segment.\n\n\n\u00a0As Henry Ford put it: \u201cWhether you think you can or think you can\u2019t, you\u2019re right.\u201d\n\n\n John Seabrook, \u201cNetwork Insecurity: Are We Losing the Battle Against Cyber Crime?\u201d The New Yorker, May 20, 2013. See archives.newyorker.com.