The mid-February deadline for General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC to present restructuring plans is fast approaching, and Dick Colliver, executive vice president-American Honda Motor Co., hopes the market will remain a level playing field.

GM received $9.4 billion in loans from the U.S. Treasury Dept. recently, while Chrysler received $4 billion. The two auto makers are seeking additional loans and must submit more detailed viability plans by Feb. 17.

Colliver says Honda employs 27,000 people here in (the U.S.), “and we build over 80% of the cars we sell here. Just keep us on a level playing field here, that’s all we ask,” he tells Ward’s.

The credit crunch is a big issue for all auto makers, Colliver says, adding that Honda’s captive lending firm finances more than 80% of the vehicles the brand sells in the U.S., which eats up a lot of capital.

“The availability of commercial financing and money for consumer loans is really important to us – that message is being communicated in Washington,” Colliver says. “Don’t put us at a competitive disadvantage because of the help you are giving the other guys.”

Honda, whose sales fell 28% in January, recently announced Colliver will be taking on a new role as senior advisor to the auto maker, effective April 1. His new responsibilities call for providing “strategic counsel, practical guidance and support” to Honda’s dealers and management.

While in New Orleans for the recent National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention, Colliver sought to ease fears of U.S. Acura dealers over the viability of the luxury brand.

Acura’s sales dwindled 19.8% in the U.S. in 2008, to 144,504 units, Ward’s data shows.

“We told (the dealers) we are dedicated to the brand, and we’re going to continue making the investments necessary to build the brand, Colliver says. “We’ve got a great product cycle, a robust product cycle coming.”

He also talked to dealers about some current changes that are coming to Honda’s lineup and showed them some photos of a new car they will be getting late this fall.

“The main thing is we wanted to encourage (our dealers) that we are here to help them. We’re behind them, and we’ll be there to support them all the way through,” Colliver says.

The new car that’s coming for the Acura brand won’t be the NSX super car.

“Having a big, great exotic sports car would have been nice in some ways, but the timing isn’t correct now,” says Jim Smail, chief operating officer-Smail Auto Group in Pittsburgh, PA.

Smail Auto Group represents 10 new car franchises – including Lincoln, Mercury, Pontiac, Cadillac, GMC, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Kia, Honda and Acura.

Smail, who owns the business with his brother, Bud Smail, tells Ward’s the group was profitable last year, but Acura’s sales “were about the same as what was reflected nationally.

“Realistically, you adjust everything, from expenses to working harder on new- and used-car deliveries,” he says.

dstark@wardsauto.com