The latest word from the world of pickup truck manufacturing is either very bad or very good, depending on your perspective.

On the downside, both General Motors and Ford Motor Co. are teetering on the brink of insolvency. Isuzu has quit the U.S. pickup and car market entirely, and even Toyota has seen its pickup sales nosedive over the past year. On top of that, trucks in general are being portrayed by the media as gas-guzzling monsters, driving away many would-be buyers.

Image

Ford F-150

Credit: Photo: Ford Motor Company

So what's the good news? For one, today is a buyer's market unlike anything we have ever experienced. Builders in a position to negotiate for a new vehicle can just about name their price; vehicles are selling for up to half off the sticker prices advertised just a few months ago. And long before the economy hit the skids, pickup manufacturers were planning and building their 2009 vehicles to be their best yet, mechanically and technologically speaking.

The most notable gains in full-size trucks for 2009 come from the original Detroit powerhouses: Dodge, Ford, and General Motors. The all-time pickup sales champ, Ford's F-150, and the Hemi-powered Dodge Ram 1500, both debut stunning wheels-up makeovers, while GM's Silverado and Sierra get ready to roll out their long-awaited "two-mode" gas-electric hybrids. GM also adds another pickup to its stable in the new "baby" Hummer H3T, while Suzuki introduces its first-ever pickup, the midsize Equator.

Here's how the pickup competition stacks up for 2009.