American Honda Motor Co. Inc. is unfazed by Ford Escape sales that broke the segment’s calendar-year mark held by CR-V.

"Escape is a fine vehicle, but we’ve been in a sell-down mode for six months," a Honda spokesman says, adding CR-V is all-new for ’02.

Despite a launch plagued by five recalls, Escape’s 2001 sales are approaching 122,000 units. The previous best 12-month performance by a small SUV was CR-V’s 1999 sales total of 120,754. As of third quarter’s end this year, CR-V sales were 83,000 units.

Next year CR-V gets an all-new chassis, body and interior. It will be powered by an all-new 2.4L, 4-cyl., 16-valve, DOHC i-VTEC engine. Honda says it expects to sell about 100,000 units.

The next significant change to Escape occurs in 2003 when a hybrid powerplant becomes available. Ford declines discussion of planned volumes but admits Escape HEV will not be built in large numbers.

Honda has no plans to equip CR-V with a hybrid engine.