Stating the obvious: No bigger disaster can befall a company than what's happening to Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. What isn't obvious is why this is occurring, and how it will play out.
First, the "why." Depending on what theory you accept concerning the Firestone ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires:
the tires have a design defect, and Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford won't admit it;
the tires are fine, but drivers don't keep enough pressure in them;
there's something rotten in Decatur, Ill., where a disproportionate number of failed Wilderness tires were made. Or it's just a coincidence;
Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford knew there was a problem for years, but didn't do anything about it;
the increasing reports of accidents and deaths is a bandwagon effect, resulting from intense media pressure and the work of ambulance-chasing lawyers.
Investigations, lawsuits and crisis management by the companies are preventing all the facts from coming out. Eventually, though, the truth will be revealed.
Eventually, too, the world will learn what this nightmare will mean to Bridgestone Corp. and Bridgestone/Firestone. The companies are strong businesses. They'll suffer, but should survive this debacle.
But the Firestone brand may sustain long-term damage. Consumers buy the brand, not the company. It took a generation and new ownership for the Firestone name to regain its reputation after the Firestone 500 debacle. Depending on how this saga plays out, it may take that much time again.