North American auto makers built 1,374,374 light vehicles in March, down 3.0% from year-ago, including 613,068 cars and 761,306 light trucks.

Part of the reason for the decline was the Easter holiday falling in March, cutting the number of production days at most plants compared with last year, when the holiday was in April.

Despite the decline, production of 3,994,991 units through 2013’s first three months was up 1.1% from first-quarter 2012.

While most segment groups recorded a small year-over-year drop in March, luxury-car output increased 31.7%. The top model was the Toyota Avalon, which saw a 179.5% spike in production while U.S. sales were surging 110%.

The Detroit Three manufactured 739,253 LVs for the month, down 3.0% from like-2012.

General Motors builds slipped 10.3% to 279,200 units, in part because of temporary shutdowns for inventory control at two plants. GM began production of the ’14 Chevrolet Impala in March at its Oshawa, ON, Canada, facility, followed this month by Hamtramck, MI. The all-new model is built on the auto maker’s Epsilon platform.

Chrysler production fell 5.1% from year-ago, to 207,743 units. However, the auto maker still is retooling its Toledo, OH, North plant for the new Jeep Cherokee.

Ford’s March builds climbed 8.7% from prior-year to 252,310 units. The boost resulted in part from an effort to increase inventory, as the auto maker had the largest drop in days’ supply from February to March among the Detroit Three.

U.S. LV production rose 0.8% in March, compared with year-ago, to 937,122 units and was up 3.2% to 2,692,634 in the first three months. Canadian factories built 199,449 in the month, down 9.3%, and year-to-date output of 575,625 was off 9.2%.

March LV builds in Mexico totaled 237,803, down 10.9% from year-ago. But output for the first three months climbed 2.5% to 726,732.

eberger@wardsauto.com