International Harvester Co., the nation's largest truck manufacturer, reported a $96.4 million loss for the three months ended in January, and Ford Motor Co. said its losses for 1980 totaled $1.5 billion after a $316 million loss in the fourth quarter.

Ford's 1980 losses -- which were in line with expectations -- are, at this point, the largest ever by an American corporation, although it will lose that distinction soon, when Chrysler Corp. reports its 1980 losses -- expected to total $1.7 billion. Chrysler lost $1.1 billion in 1976, the previous record.

All three companies were licking their wounds from the impact of high interest rates on their markets. Ford's 1980 after-tax loss of $1.5 billion resulted from declines of 33 percent in domestic sales and 26 percent in worldwide sales from 1979.

While International Harvester has seen its sales of trucks, farm implements and construction equipment cut short by a stagnant economy and high interest rates, it also has been struggling to recover from a six-months-long strike year by the United Auto Workers union.

IH announced it is skipping payment on the normal quarterly dividend on common stock and that it is attempting to sell its Solar Turbines International Division. IH's first-quarter loss came despite record sales of $1.6 billion. It lost $222.2 million in the November-January (1980 first quarter, during the strike.

Ford Chairman Philip Caldwell said the company had weathered the disastrous year "without basic damage to its operations or a reduction in the scope of its plans for future products."

Ford also was cheered by the showing of its new line of front-wheel-drive subcompacts, the Ford Escort and Mercury Lynx, which thus far has outsold all of the 70 imported car lines in the United States, according to Ford.

But Ford and its chief American competitors, Chrysler and General Motors, Co., have had to curtail plant operations to conserve cash and give up hundreds of dollars per car in rebates to stimulate sales, cutting into profits.

IH has been following at least a part of Chrysler's strategy, cutting its capital investment to $350 million this year, seeking to sell less profitable subsidiaries, and trying to restructive its debt on more favorable terms. It has no intention of seeking government aid, however.

International Harvestor said it will try to ease the burden by restructuring its short-term credit into medium-term, replacing $710 million in company debt and 1.7 billion in borrowing by IH's credit corporation subsidiary. The credit subsidiary has been unable to raise funds by selling its own securities because of last year's losses.

It has begun discussing the possible sale of credit corporation receivables with a group of bank creditors, including the Bank of America, Bank of Montreal, Chase Manhattan, Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust, Deutschebank, Lloyds Bank International, Manufacturers Hanover Trust and Morgan Guaranty Trust.

In Chrysler's case, the company faces another cliffhanging crisis, but one it is expected to survive, in its quest for approval of $400 million in government-backed loans.

Some of Chrysler's largest creditor-banks have refused to accept the terms of the financial plan arranged in the last days of the Carter administration by then-Treasury secretary G. William Miller. That plan gave Chrysler the option of paying 30 cents on the dollar to settle half of its outstanding $1.1 billion in long-term debt owed to U.S. and foreign banks, with the first payments starting 90 days after the company received the federally guaranteed funds.

But some of the banks, led by Citibank, are reportedly anxious about Chrysler's long-term prospects and want an immediate initial cash payment of 5 to 6 cents on the dollar, as soon as Chrysler receives the $400 million.

One participant in the loan negotiations said the banks see most of the $400 million being siphoned off at once to settle the debts Chrysler owes to its suppliers and want at least a piece of it.

But the banks' proposition is reportedly not acceptable to the government's loan guarantee board