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Ford’s US sales drop 41 percent in March

DETROIT – Ford Motor Co.’s U.S. sales fell nearly 41 percent in March, as low consumer confidence and job uncertainty continued to keep buyers away from showrooms.

The Dearborn-based automaker said Wednesday it sold 131,102 cars and light trucks last month, compared with 221,642 in March 2008.

Other automakers plan to report their results later Wednesday.

Ford’s March sales did improve 32 percent from February, when the automaker sold 99,060 vehicles and the U.S. sales overall hit their lowest point in more than 27 years.

Sales are generally better in March as warmer temperatures help drive people to showrooms, but analysts expect to see little improvement from February industrywide. That’s despite a record level of incentive spending by automakers last month, according to Edmunds.com.

The average incentive on vehicles sold last month was $3,169, up 30 percent from a year earlier, the car buying Web site said. General Motors Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. spent more on incentives than they ever have.

In a further effort to boost sales, Ford announced its “Advantage Program” Monday. It will pay customers’ monthly payments — up to $700 — for a year if they lose their jobs.

Ford said sales of its Focus compact car fell 42 percent, and sales of its top seller, the F-series pickups fell 40 percent. Sales of the Expedition and Explorer sport utility vehicles plummeted 73 percent.

Lincoln brand sales fell 33 percent, with a sharp decline of 79 percent in Navigator sales. Mercury brand sales fell 42 percent.

The Associated Press reports unadjusted auto sales figures, calculating the percentage change in the total number of vehicles sold in one month compared with the same month a year earlier. Some automakers report percentages adjusted for sales days. There were 25 sales days last month, one less than in March 2008.

Shares of Ford fell 5 cents to $2.58 in midday trading.

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