There has never been anything quite like the troubles that Toyota is having with its vehicles. The company seems to be in free fall.
It is bad enough that Toyota has recalled eight models in the United States, stopping production and sales of those models. More than 8 million Toyota vehicles are being recalled on three continents.
The U.S. secretary of transportation last week encouraged owners of the recalled Toyota models to contact their local dealerships and get the vehicles fixed as soon as possible and to use caution when driving.
The Japanese Ministry of Transportation has ordered Toyota to investigate potential problems with the brakes on the Toyota Prius.
This is a nightmare that doesn't seem to have an ending.
Toyota executives in Japan seem to have been oblivious to the problems and any solution. The question is whether they have tied the hands of executives in the United States who can only stand up and continue to be battered by their government, their dealers and, most important, their customers.
There have been recalls. There have been some massive automotive recalls. But since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was founded 40 years ago, I'm not sure there has ever been a problem with a manufacturer escalating so out of control. And it is escalating out of control all over the world, not just in the United States.
The rush to the global automobile means that in the future a problem will become a global problem when engineering for the whole world is done in one place and maybe a single supplier is used. The potential for catastrophe is huge.
Marketing executives all over the world are excited about stealing Toyota sales and market share. In all its major markets, Toyota is vulnerable to competition.
At the same time there must be thousands of automotive engineers who are thanking their lucky stars that it's not them and not their vehicles. Those engineers must have a great deal of compassion for their fellow engineers.
Whether it was simply bad luck or Toyota had a change of philosophy in the quest to grab a 15 percent global market share and be No. 1 in the world will be discussed for quite a while.
Meanwhile, Toyota must be upfront, honest and as transparent as possible during this catastrophe.
The company's survival and its future depend on it.