The Dearborn-based automaker said Wednesday it sold 131,102 cars and light trucks last month, compared with 221,642 in March 2008.
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.
Meanwhile, Honda Motor Co. said its sales dropped 36 percent. Other automakers were slated to release their results later Wednesday.
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, while Ford said its incentive spending was the same as a year ago.
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.
General Motors announced a similar plan Tuesday. GM's "Total Confidence" plan will handle up to $500 a month in payments for customers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.
Separately, GM scrambled to cut billions in cast and debt as they face a government-imposed June 1 deadline to demonstrate viability. If they can't, the New York Times reported Wednesday that the Obama administration is considering easing the company into a "controlled bankruptcy."
The automaker said its car and crossover segment is doing well, with 61 percent of sales coming in that segment.
"People are still moving to the car and crossover segment, which we view is right in our sweet spot this year," said George Pipas, Ford's top sales analyst.
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.
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 sliiped a penny to $2.62 in afternoon trading.
In other sales news:
Through March, the company's total U.S. sales for 2009 were off 26 percent, at 45,171 compared with 61,123 a year ago.
Three-month sales of Mercedes vehicles alone were down 30 percent, to 40,234 from 57,647 in the same period of 2008. Sales of smart were up 42 percent, to 4,937 from 3,476 a year ago.
So far this year, Acura sales totaled 24,520 units. That's down 34.7 percent from the 37,540 units sold last year.
Through March, 2009 sales have increased 2 percent, to 41,532 from 40,881 a year earlier.