our frustration of having a bad credit history, it’s something you rather avoid,
Both credit bureau and Ford can completely remove this record for you, they weren’t being helpful telling you that it would only have a “paid” status after payment made.
For Credit bureau to remove this, you have to show cause, but it seems that the alleged debt is undisputed fact, that won’t help, it is not their job to investigate why the payments were not made on time according to the your lease contract, that would just amount to plain beach.
It would be easier to take this up with Ford, you can probably argue that the notice was never delivered to you, including all your previous warning letters, and there was maybe some communication issues with your joint person, and the message was never passed to you.
You will explain that it was Not your intention to deliberately avoid the payments, it was never brought to your attention, providing you have been a good customer, etc...
Also, Having good faith in resolving this, you offer to make immediate full payment, since the matter has now been taken to a debt collector, that means ford has sold the debt to these guys, you might want to write a good email/phone call to the debt collecting agency, and these guys would help you better than anyone. You ll explain the whole matter clearly, and basically cut a deal, business collectors are just like any other businesses, they would want to see something out of this, it would cost you a bit of fees, which you should negotiate and agree to settle, by doing that you will ask them nicely to have it removed from your credit file. And they should be able to assist communicating with the debtor, Ford. I know it doesn’t sound that desirable, but For the sake of keep a clean slate of credit history, that’s what you will need to do.
It is not worth going to court for such matters, and I don’t see you have a strong case either.