There’s been a lot of talk – fear, really – that kids’ lack of interest in driving is going to be the death of the auto industry.

But don’t worry, says Denso’s Justin McBride. We’ve just been trying to woo them with the wrong things. 

“What we found, even just working with the teens, is they don’t care about the engine, the styling. It’s the connectivity.”

Denso has spent a lot of time studying youth as part of its autonomous and connected-vehicle activities. The company finds that as long as teens can see who is texting them, for instance, then they’re cool with cars.

Honda’s automated-and-connected driving guru Jim Keller, speaking on the same Monday afternoon panel as McBride, adds, “Whenever I tell somebody what I'm doing, young people really get excited about it.”

Where’d All the Commuting Bicyclists Go?

Bicycling has become more than a form of exercise and recreation. For many young Americans, it’s now a way to get to work. Could that put a dent in vehicle sales? Well, maybe in some warm- weather states.

But elsewhere? Skeptical about that is Sean McAlinden, chief economist for the Center for Automotive Research that puts on the 2014 Management Briefing Seminars.

McAlinden, based in Ann Arbor, MI, offers this observation about bicyclists there: “They disappear in the winter.”

For good reason. Bicycles lack heaters, electronic stability control and other features that make commuting on snowy days bearable, or even possible.

How Many GM Owners?

Addressing the MBS Powertrain session Tuesday, Steve Kiefer, General Motors’ vice president-global powertrain, talks about the automaker’s entry into the passenger-car diesel market with the Chevrolet Cruze, a 2014 Ward’s 10 Best Engines winner.

He even airs a video of WardsAuto editor Steve Finlay talking about the 2.0L turbodiesel.

After starting his presentation with an exhilarating clip of the new Chevy Corvette stretching its legs around a track, Kiefer mentions that a beautiful yellow ’Vette is parked outside the conference.

He asks for a show of hands of how many people in the audience own GM vehicles. He seems disappointed by the response. “Did I mention we’ve got a yellow Corvette parked out front?” he says again.

Refreshing Honesty

There’s so much evasive talk from executives at MBS that it can be startling to hear an honest voice. Not surprising that voice belongs to a relative industry outsider.

Speaking Tuesday morning, Shane Stephens from hydrogen fuel provider First Element Fuel, delivers this unvarnished nugget of truth about his company: “This is not a money-maker,” later following it up with, “We’re looking for all the help we can get,” referring to the fact FEF is supported solely by Toyota and the state of California.

Perhaps Stephens’ late-night arrival from California allowed the truth to flow freely. We wonder if his boss, former Hyundai and GM marketer Joel Ewanick, who originally was on the schedule, would have been so forthright.