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Fiat Chrysler looking at options to plug hole in its truck lineup -CEO

Joseph White

DETROIT, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV Chief Executive Mike Manley told Reuters on Tuesday he is open to partnerships to develop a new midsize pickup truck the automaker could sell in Latin America and other markets outside the United States to compete with models such as Ford Motor Co's Thailand-built Ranger.

"A gaping hole in our portfolio is a metric ton pickup" that would be a lower-cost, lower-priced vehicle aimed at work and commercial uses in markets outside the United States, Manley said in an interview at the Detroit auto show.

"Do you fill that individually or fill that in partnership? We are looking at what can we do individually, and if we partner with someone what would that look like?"

Rivals Ford and Volkswagen AG on Tuesday said they plan to jointly develop replacements for their respective midsize trucks as part of a new commercial vehicle alliance. VW and Ford compete with Fiat Chrysler for pickup sales in a variety of markets, including the United States and Brazil.

FCA last year outlined plans to launch such a pickup - smaller than its current Ram 1500 model - by 2022. Manley drew a distinction between the Jeep Gladiator midsize pickup that Fiat Chrysler unveiled in Los Angeles last November, and the "metric ton" pickup sold in developing markets. The Gladiator is a "lifestyle truck," he said, that is not designed to compete at the lower price levels typical of work-oriented pickups.

"The Gladiator is perfect for the U.S. market," Manley said. "But because of its content it's not perfect for Thailand."

Ford builds a version of its Ranger truck in Thailand, but heavily modified that vehicle to adapt it to the U.S. market. Rivals such as General Motors Co also sell different versions of midsize pickups in the United States than they offer in less wealthy markets. (Reporting By Joe White Editing by Tom Brown)