CES: The ‘New’ Auto Show

Looking for an electric car that charges up wirelessly?

Want to see how your car will help you connect with the information/entertainment on the cloud?

Curious about how futuristic your drive be in just a year or two?

Ford Sync
Stan Honda | AFP | Getty Images
Ford Sync

You can find out at the Consumer Electronics Showin Vegas.

CES has become a "must attend" show for the auto industry. A few years ago, CES was an interesting side note before the Detroit Auto Show. No longer. As technology and in-car connectivity become a bigger factor in why people buy a car or truck, it's imperative for the automakers to make a big splash at CES.

Last night I spent time with Ford CEO Alan Mulally as he met with tech and entertainment industry leaders like the founder of Pandora, the wildly popular streaming digital music service. Four years ago, when Mulally took over Ford, he spent just a fraction of his time meeting with tech industry leaders. Not anymore. These days, Mulally and his leaders are spending more and more time with tech leaders.

Here's why. In car entertainment and connectivity, systems like Sync are increasingly must have add-ons for car buyers. And they have no problem paying for them. These systems drive higher transaction prices and greater profit margins.

CES 2011 - Your Digital Life - A CNBC Special Report
CES 2011 - Your Digital Life - A CNBC Special Report

And this is just beginning.

Just as people are constantly demanding the latest iPods or smart phones, they will demand the same from car tech systems. If it costs $100 to upgrade to the latest software and operating system, who wouldn't pay do that?

The future of cars and trucks is tied to the latest innovations in technology, and it's changing quickly.

Look for CNBC's in-depth coverage of CES 2011 online and on-air. Phil LeBeau will report from the show beginning today.

Maria Bartiromo will anchor "Closing Bell" from CES on Today and Friday, January 6 and 7, 3-5pm ET.

Click on Ticker to Track Corporate News:

- Ford Motor

- Toyota Motor

- Nissan

- Honda Motor

___________________________ Questions? Comments?BehindTheWheel@cnbc.comand Follow me on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews