A senior Honda executive has warned that the US vehicle market could be hit hard by the financial crisis.

Speaking at the Reuters Auto Summit in Detroit, John Mendel, who heads up Honda's US sales operations said he expected the US market to reach between 13.8 and 14m units this year, but that in 2009 the figure could be between 13.5m and 14m.

Mendel said that uncertainty caused by the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers bank and the government bailout of insurance company, American International Group, will undoubtedly lead to the deferral of new vehicle purchases.

"It continues to put pressure on consumers to wait and see for a lot of different things," he told Reuters.

Honda is weathering the market better than some of others as it is benefiting from a shift in the market towards more fuel efficient cars. Mendel is hoping to that customers will continue to turn to the brand in 2009 to buy new models such as the Insight hybrid and a redesigned Fit.

Honda is currently selling as many Fit small cars as it can import. It is expecting to sell around 80,000 this year, having run out of stock during the summer.