New Honda Motor Co. Ltd. CEO Takanobu Ito says the light-vehicle market in the U.S. may be depressed for another two years, possibly longer.

“When you look at the state of the (U.S.) economy, it's difficult to imagine that it would recover in the next two years,” Reuters reports Ito as saying at his first public speech in Japan today.

Honda’s U.S. sales are down 33.5% through June, slightly better than the total LV falloff of 35.1%, Ward’s data show.

Ito says the emerging markets of China and India still hold promise for Honda. As such, he wants Honda to go head-to-head with Tata Motors Ltd.’s Nano, a stance opposite that of former Honda CEO Takeo Fukui, who believed Honda’s motorcycles were an appropriate, low-cost option for Indian buyers.

“In India, they adore such low-cost vehicles, and we should respect such desires,” Ito says of the Nano, without divulging any details about Honda’s plans for a rival vehicle.

Meanwhile, Ito reiterates Honda’s desire to bring two new hybrid-electric vehicles to market next year in Japan.

The CR-Z sport coupe is due to arrive in February, while an HEV version of the Fit subcompact is to launch sometime before the end of 2010, he says.

Only the CR-Z is slated for the U.S. and Europe, with timing still undetermined.

Honda recently launched its next-generation Insight HEV, which Ito says is doing well in Japan. Honda added another shift of production at its Suzuka plant in mid June to meet demand.

However, U.S. sales of 7,524 units through June are off pace of the 80,000-90,000 Honda hoped to sell in the U.S. this year, which Ito blames on prioritizing Japan orders and production capacity limitations.

Ito says Honda has placed almost all engineers formerly devoted to its Formula One racing activities on hybrid development.

Honda, Ito says, is accelerating development on a hybrid system similar to that of rival Toyota Motor Corp., which utilizes two electric motors in concert with a gasoline engine. The system is due to be installed in medium and large vehicles.