DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- The auto industry is finally catching on the saying: "It's what's inside that counts." Forget talk of body design, it's all about Internet-connected car, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Take, for example, the new technology Volkswagen (VOLKAY) is putting inside its new souped-up Golf -- the R Touch. And it's not just Volkswagen. According to industry watcher IHS Automotive, the number of cars that connect to the Internet around the world will grow to roughly 150 million in 2020 from today's 23 million.

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But every automaker, from General Motors (GM) - Get Report  to Mercedes to Ford  (F) - Get Report , has its own idea of what a connected car means.

"Smart mobility for us is using innovation to take us to the next level in terms of mobility, the connected car, autonomous vehicles, the whole customer experience," Ford CEO Mark Fields said. "So we're not only thinking of ourselves as a car, utility and truck company, but also as a mobility company and using innovation to help solve some of the world's most pressing traffic and congestion issues."

Visteon (VC) - Get Report  CEO Tim Leuliette believes automakers' focus on the technology that's inside a car is simple.

"Each of the (original equipment manufacturers) sees this as ground zero of the competitive environment going forward. The performance issues are getting comparable, handling is getting comparable, this whole interface, the connected car, the cockpit ecosystem, the vehicle to mobile device. That's the next frontier," Leuliette said.

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