Ford ( F) says vehicle sales fell 41% in March.

Sales of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles totaled 125,107 in March. Retail sales fell 36%, while fleet sales fell 50%.

The automaker said its retail-market share was the highest since December, 2006, possibly reflecting the success of Ford's effort to distinguish itself from General Motors ( GM) and Chrysler. Unlike its two peers, Ford has not sought a government bailout.

Ford estimated its retail-share performance between October 2008 and March 2009 was the strongest of any major manufacturer, compared with the same period a year earlier.

Inventories at the end of March totaled 408,000 units, down 27% from a year earlier.

Leading performers in March were the F-150 pickup, the Escape small utility vehicle, the Flex full-size crossover and the Lincoln MKS sedan.

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