Forget the Swine Flu.
Nine out of 10 doctors say Toyota has contracted the dreaded disease known as GM Bloating Syndrome. There could be no doubt about the diagnosis after the Japanese automaker lost more money in the last quarter than General Motors did.
The prognosis is decent: So far, it doesnt look terminal. But it will take time for Toyota to recover.
Toyota came down with the horrible malaise because it weakened its world-famous natural immune system by overexerting itself in its quest to climb past GM and become the worlds largest automaker.
There were early symptoms.
For example, already in August 2004, Toyota President Fujio Cho admitted he felt a sense of crisis because the companys management ranks were being stretched thin. Cho told the Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich., that Toyotas growth in North America had outpaced its ability to recruit and assimilate managers into the Toyota Way.
By that time, Toyota dealers sold nearly as many SUV models as Chevy dealers.
Then Toyota figured it could make serious inroads in the U.S. pickup market by building the huge trucks in the middle of Texas, the worlds largest pickup market.
So in November 2006, Toyota abandoned its time-tested practice of constructing flexible assembly plants and opened a $1.2 billion factory in San Antonio dedicated to building full-sized Tundra pickups.
But dont send flowers or get-well cards just yet.
Toyota already has summoned a specialist to the patients bedside. Yoshimi Inaba is back in North America to devise the proper medication, diet and physical therapy to get Toyota off the critical list and on the road to recovery.
But what happens if GM uses its radical treatment to get healthy before Toyota is completely back on its feet?
Dont ask me. Im not a doctor.