DETROIT – One or more small Honda vehicles in the U.S. could be offered with a diesel engine, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. CEO Takeo Fukui says.

The Honda Accord midsize car, CR-V small cross/utility vehicle and Civic compact models are sold in Europe with diesel engines, and they are strong sellers, Fukui says.

“Those models have high potential for the U.S. market,” he tells reporters at the 2007 North American International Auto Show here.

Honda announced plans last year to bring a 4-cyl. diesel engine to the U.S. in 2009 and a V-6 diesel after that.

Fukui says Honda sees initial diesel engine volumes in the U.S. as “small,” but is unable to provide a specific volume.

Meanwhile, Honda’s projections for the U.S. market are more optimistic than those of Japanese rival Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn earlier told reporters he expects a seasonal annually adjusted rate of 16 million units in the U.S. this year, down from 2006’s 16.5 million.

Honda anticipates a SAAR “close to last year’s figure,” Fukai says. “Sixteen million is still quite a sizable market.”

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com