LOS ANGELES — Years after their Super Bowl airings, the gritty Fiat Chrysler commercials conceived by Saad Chehab are considered a high-water mark in auto advertising.
There was the Detroit-boosting "Born of Fire" spot featuring the Chrysler 200 and rapper Eminem, the recovery-themed "Halftime in America" commercial with Clint Eastwood and later Maserati's bracing "Strike" spot.
After leaving FCA in 2015 for personal reasons, Chehab, 50, is back in the advertising game, this time as vice president of marketing communications for Kia Motors America.
He'll have a lot on his plate: Kia is set to launch the all-new Stinger this year, a performance sedan that's its biggest leap yet from its econobox heritage. There are also a variety of new electrified models rolling out between now and the end of the decade.
But it's that kind of product-oriented, image-busting work that gets Chehab fired up. "Kia is — if you think about it -- a product-driven brand," he told Automotive News. "It's a brand with product actions, I call it. And so, for a marketer like myself, it's exciting to tell the world about the product and the accomplishments of this brand."
The brand itself is having an off year, with sales down 8.4 percent through August, despite two consecutive first-place showings in J.D. Power's Initial Quality Study.
Chehab discussed his plans for Kia with Staff Reporter David Undercoffler in August at Kia's North American headquarters in Irvine, Calif.
Q: What drew you to Kia?
A:I've always envied this brand from a distance, especially on its product side. It's shocking, in my opinion, the slew of products that it has introduced and continues to introduce every year. It's shocking how it has grabbed and conquered market share from zero to what, just about 4 percent, 3.8 percent?
I like this brand's youthfulness. It's a new brand that started in 1994. And it acts like it. It doesn't have anything to rely on as baggage or history. And look at the weather outside. It's in California.