Production planners at most of North America’s light-vehicle manufacturers apparently have concluded a nascent auto sales recovery is taking root and are boosting February and March output plans accordingly.

Led primarily by gains at Nissan North America Inc. (47,000 units), New United Motor Mfg. Inc. (29,900), Ford Motor Co. (19,800) and BMW Mfg. Co. (10,100), the industry’s first-quarter slate of 2,984,400 stands 58,100 units, or 2%, higher than a month ago and more than 72% better than like-2009’s weak 1,732,600-unit tally.

Related document: North America Production Schedule Q1 – February 2010

While nearly a third of the gain is attributable to an estimated January tally of some 18,600 vehicles above plan, the bulk of the increase, 37,800 units, is scheduled in March. February’s slate has grown by 1,700 assemblies.

What’s more, the robust first-quarter increase comes despite a 44,900-unit cutback at Chrysler LLC, where truck output has been reduced 27,000 units in Mexico, 10,800 in Canada and 2,300 in the U.S.

Also taking a hit are Toyota Motor Engineering & Mfg. North America Inc. plants in the U.S. and Canada, where most of the lines were slated to be down at least the first week of February to correct issues with sticking accelerators.

Although Toyota plans to recover at least a portion of that reduction by increasing March production, the net result is an expected loss of some 16,700 units in the quarter.

Dedicated medium- and heavy-duty truck makers have cut first-quarter plans some 15,300 vehicles due to lagging sales.

All of the reduction in medium- and heavy-truck production is in the U.S., where first-quarter output stands at 16,200 units lower than it did a month ago, offset to only a small degree by an additional 900 assemblies in Mexico.