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NHSTA Looks Into Chrysler Seat Belts

DETROIT, Nov 19, 2002; Reuters reported that Federal auto safety regulators have opened an investigation into about 1 million DaimlerChrysler vehicles after 17 complaints that seat belts could loosen in use, especially when strapped around child seats.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began a preliminary investigation two weeks ago into eight Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth models built between model years 1995 and 2003.

Many of the vehicles were equipped with passenger seat belts that could be tightened around a child seat. NHTSA said owners had complained that the part used to tighten the belts, called a cinching latch plate, had broken.

Chrysler spokeswoman Angela Spencer Ford said the automaker was working with NHTSA on the investigation and that it was unclear exactly how many vehicles were covered.

The investigation includes the Chrysler PT Cruiser and Sebring, the Plymouth Breeze and Neon, and Dodge Neon, Stratus, Durango and Ram van.

In a preliminary investigation, NHTSA asks automakers about data related to a specific problem, then determines whether the probe should be upgraded to an engineering analysis or dismissed.