"Some of the ads are a little -- I don't want to say soft, but slow," Spenchian says. "They lack a little bit of the energy that I really think is Saab's brand character."
Spenchian says Lowe agrees with the new approach.
Hollie Geren, a spokeswoman for Lowe, says the agency is working with Saab on a new campaign. She declined further comment.
Through the first five months of 2005, Saab sold 15,432 vehicles in the United States, down 6.7 percent from the year-ago period.
Chris Cerrina, president of Parkfield Motors in Bergenfield, N.J., heads the Saab International Dealer Council. He says he shares Spenchian's desire for more emphasis on vehicle performance in marketing and advertising.
Saab's scheduled introductions of a 9-3 sport sedan in September and a convertible in October provide an opportunity to stress the car's
V-6 engine and other performance features, Cerrina says.
"We've got a pretty daunting task," Cerrina says. "We're looking to rebuild the brand."
Spenchian, 46, came to Saab from Cadillac, where he was marketing director. Cadillac helped revive sales in recent years by using a Led Zeppelin soundtrack in its TV commercials. But Spenchian says a similar hard-rock approach would not be appropriate for Saab.
"When I say performance, do we have to say it?" he says. "I think we can show it. We can feel it from the music used in the ads, what gets depicted in the ads."
Jim Sanfilippo, executive vice president of automotive consulting company AMCI in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., says Spenchian is applying lessons he learned at Cadillac in emphasizing performance in Saab's marketing.
"Launching the (Cadillac) CTS, he knows that people who buy these cars expect performance," Sanfilippo says. "The 9-3 is very competitive against the BMW 3 series. It corners, brakes and accelerates very close, and most people don't know it. Getting Saab to get credit for that performance is key."