Federal highway safety officials said on Thursday the agency has opened or upgraded probes into more than 530,000 vehicles made by DaimlerChrysler AG's North American unit, Ford Motor Co. , General Motors Corp. and Kia Motors Corp.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in its latest monthly defect report said it had opened probes, or preliminary evaluations, into cars made by Chrysler, Ford and Kia, and upgraded a GM probe to an engineering analysis.

After NHTSA upgrades to an engineering analysis, it can ask a carmaker to recall all or some of the vehicles in question or drop the analysis without making a finding NHTSA said it opened probes into an undetermined number of 2000 and 2001 model Dodge Dakota Quad Cab pickups made by Chrysler for a possible problem with the driver's seat safety belt anchor disengaging from its mount.

"We've just started looking into it," DaimlerChrysler spokesman Dave Wilkins said.

NHTSA received three complaints. No injuries were reported.
The safety agency also began an investigation into 278,000 1998-model Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique small sedans for possible fuel spitback. NHTSA received 10 complaints, but no reports of injuries. Ford could not be reached to comment.

The agency said it upgraded its probe into 255,766 1997-to 1998-model Chevrolet Malibu and Oldsmobile Cutlass sedans for possible windscreen wiper failure. It received nine complaints, while GM received 83.

"We're looking into it," said GM spokesman Greg Martin, adding that no injuries have been reported.

NHTSA said probes were opened into 2000-model Sephia sedans and Sportage sport utility vehicles for possible "incorrect battery jump start" and into 1998-and 1999-model Sephia cars for possible problems with the "transmission oil cooler line." No further information was available and NHTSA and Kia officials were unavailable to comment.