Avoid FORD Focus With Defective Transmission

In case you are shopping for a late model Ford Focus I am here to urge you to reconsider. The car looks good inside and out and given the popularity of the previous Focus model and a reasonable price you may be tempted to buy one, but you will be making a costly mistake, unless you know exactly what you are getting into. For some reason Ford decided to install a poorly-designed transmission on this vehicle which is not only annoying but is unsafe as well. A quick search pulls up thousands of complaints, and while your local dealer will not deny that there is a problem, they don’t have a fix for it and there is not much hope that it will be coming in the future. Below is the copy of the letter I mailed to the CEO of Ford Corporation with only my personal information and VIN redacted.

Ford Focus with Problematic Transmission

Ford Focus with Problematic Transmission

Mark Fields
CEO, Ford Motor Company
One American Road
Dearborn, Michigan 48126

Dear Mr. Fields,

Does your car decide when to go and at what speed? Does it hesitate when you need to make a left turn, cross a street or merge in traffic? Does it make you wonder what will happen when you press the gas pedal and do you feel like you are gambling every time you want your car to move?

Mine does and I do.

I own a 2014 Ford Focus, a car with transmission so complicated that even your own engineers can’t seem to figure it out. Every time I take it to the dealer I get an explanation that this is the normal behavior for the manual-automatic feat of engineering you installed on my car or get a control module “reprogrammed” without any improvement. Well, I disagree about the normality of the intermittent operation of the transmission, shudder, hesitation, mechanical noises and unpredictability. I know that you are aware of the problem as well, since Ford is quietly extending warranties for transmission-related issues.

An owner of a new car shouldn’t be in the shop more than once in the first year and that should be only for routine maintenance. I know that because previously to this model I owned a 2003 Focus for 10 years and 206,000 miles with hardly any issues during the first 5 years. That was the reason I didn’t hesitate buying a new one.

Despite my disappointment I am willing to give the Focus another try. I would trade my car for a 2015 Focus under the following conditions:

  1. It should be sold to me at the lowest price, my previous car was sold to me at the X-Plan price, all the rebates and incentives should apply.
  2. Ford should compensate me 80% of the sales tax and licensing fees, since I will be losing that amount due to trade-in.
  3. I should get a 0% 60-month loan.
  4. I should get a fair and acceptable offer for the 2014 model I will be trading in.

I would like to hear back from Ford by July 1st, 2015.

If I don’t hear back from Ford with a satisfactory offer by July 1st, 2015 I will do the following.

  1. Post a copy of this letter on my website and share it on social media.
  2. Create a Facebook page dedicated to this issue.
  3. Send a copy of this letter to every local media outlet, including print, TV and radio.
  4. Send a copy of this letter to Better Business Bureau, Kansas Attorney General and FTC.
  5. Trade the car in for another brand.

I realize that one person doesn’t have a clout comparable to a corporation but with the right amount of social media experience and postage I am sure I can make my voice heard.

I don’t feel safe in my car and if I get into an accident due to the shudder and transmission hesitation, I will present a copy of this letter and a certified mail receipt and not a sheet of paper the dealership showed me trying to convince that this a normally functioning transmission.


*name, address and VIN redacted. 

In response to my letter a low-level regional manager called me and told me that I can go to my local dealer again to have a technician drive with me and see if there is a problem they can identify. She also repeated the line about the shudder, hesitation and noises being perfectly normal for this type of transmission. I expressed my disagreement and pointed out that I already exhausted the amount of time I think an owner of a new car should spend at the shop. Ford’s response letter is shown below with my personal information edited out.

Letter from Ford in response to my complaint about transmission.

Letter from Ford in response to my complaint about transmission.

After some thought I will be trading this car in probably within the next month, but as I promised in my letter I will be making this information available to prospective buyers as a warning to stay away from this poorly designed vehicle and the company that will not stand behind it.

Refund For Kansas Residents Paying Kansas City Missouri Earnings Tax

Attention: Read Important Update 

Attention: Read Another Important Update

Following the Supreme Court ruling in Comptroller v. Wynne Kansas residents are allowed to amend their taxes and claim a refund of the amount of the Kansas City, Missouri Earnings Tax that was previously double-taxed. Just so it’s clear, you are not getting a refund from Kansas City, Missouri, but from the State of Kansas which previously didn’t allow the Earnings Tax to be subtracted from taxable income which resulted in the now illegal double-taxation.

On August 10, 2015 Kansas Department of revenue issued the following instructions:

 Generally, the statute of limitations for amending taxes is 3 years, so with some exceptions the eligible years are 2012, 2013 and 2014, with the deadline for amending the 2012 taxes set in April, 2016.

As of this writing the commercial tax preparation programs have not been updated to reflect this change and they are not likely to be in a rush.

After consulting with an accountant and checking Kansas Tax forms online I have decided to pay a professional to refile my forms; this is a rare case when I think doing it myself is not worth the hassle. Also keep in mind that it’s likely that the amount of the refund will be taxed on the federal level in the year you will receive it.

Knowing that Kansas is broke I wouldn’t recommend waiting too long to do this. I am sure everyone who files will get their refund eventually, but it may be a while, especially for the late filers.

Important Update: 

I finally had my taxes reviewed by a professional and the additional refund wasn’t nearly as much as I expected. Even though the State of Kansas now allows you to claim local taxes on your return, they still fall under the category of taxes paid to other states and there is a limit to how much credit you can get. The limit is calculated using this worksheet:


If you already claimed maximum credit allowable on line 6, you are out of luck. So my suggestion is before you spend money or time trying to amend your taxes, run your numbers through this worksheet and see if it’s even worth the effort.

Another Important Update:

I received a response from the State of Kansas to my amended return where adjustment wasn’t granted. When I called to follow-up, it turned out that they also require a copy of Missouri return and a copy of Kansas City, MO form RD-109NR which actually is not required for taxpayers whose earnings tax is withheld automatically so you probably don’t have it. I downloaded and filled out the form and faxed it over together with my Missouri return. We’ll have to see what happens next.

*I am not qualified to give tax (or any) advice, so please do your own research or consult with a trained professional.

Don’t Avoid Detroit

When you tell people you’re going to Detroit they often give you that “are you crazy?” look and wish you to come back alive or at least unhurt. Pictures of abandoned and destroyed post-apocalyptic Detroit’s ruin-porn make their rounds on the internet, interspersed with scary crime statistics and sad economic news. A person with common sense would probably avoid Detroit, but clearly I am not that person. During a college visit to the nearby Ann Arbor, I set aside two days to check out Detroit because how could I not. Detroit is awesome. And we came back alive and even unhurt, if you don’t count a parking ticket, which did hurt a lot.

…but wait,there is more… Don’t Avoid Detroit

Driving Missouri: St. Joe

I haven’t been to St. Joseph for almost 20 years. Long time ago St. Joe was the first to get a riverboat casino and it seemed like a good idea to drive for an hour and a half to gamble away my meager earnings. I haven’t been back since. Either I wasn’t that impressed or more money-wasting venues propped up nearby, whatever the reason, St. Joe just never again appeared on my list of places to visit.  Then the Pitch wrote about a new pizza place, the last weekend of nice fall weather was coming up, and suddenly it seemed like why not St. Joe.

St. Joe is famous for its Glore Psychiatric Museum.

…but wait,there is more… Driving Missouri: St. Joe

Behind The Iron Curtain: Stool Samples


Infamous Stool Sample Matchbox

This was originally written on my FB page where I post pictures and links almost daily and which you immediately should follow. I remembered about the stool samples when I was writing this post about the Soviet medicine of my day.

*Warning: please don’t eat while reading this.

Soviet kids had to be healthy whether they wanted it or not. And healthy meant parasite-free. So once in a while, my school (and I imagine all the other schools in the area) put out a call for stool samples. By a certain deadline every child had to submit a matchbox full of you-know-what, tightly wrapped and marked with the name of a producer.

At that time (and maybe still) the Soviet toilets (in places with indoor plumbing but not in public restrooms) were different from the American model we are all used to. Instead of a small pool of water ready to accept your deposits, it was more like a vase with hardly any water at all. When done, a person would pull a chain and a waterfall coming down from the high-mounted tank (if the water was on that day) would flush the stuff down through the hole located in the front part of the toilet.
That technical aside was necessary to explain that at least our parents didn’t have to fish for floating crap, it was all right there, nice and piled. Clearly no 8- or 9- or even 12-year-old wants to have anything to do with putting their own crap in a small box, so that somber duty had to be fulfilled by our parents. Many years later, as a parent myself, I’ve done many disgusting things and touched some substances that would make a grown man gag (and they did). But even after thousands of diapers changed I am still not sure I could go ahead and do what my mom had to do. This is something that would make you think twice about having a child.
The next day, the matchbox was proudly delivered and submitted to school, securely wrapped in multiple layers of paper and plastic (we didn’t have zip-locks or any bags of that nature) and tied with a string, with my name proudly scribbled on it like a designer brand. To this day I have no idea if anyone did anything with those nuggets. You can imagine that a school with 800 or a thousand kids can produce enough crap to fertilize a small organic beet farm. (Note to self: submit this idea to the school district as an extra source of income in light of recent school budget cuts by Governor Brownback.)
I always imagined that a lab in lower circles of socialized healthcare hell, populated by medical school dropouts, dimly lit and smelling worse than a meatpacking plant on a summer day, did nothing else but unwrapped the packages and examined the contents for parasite eggs and the signs of dinners past.But in reality I think they just threw these boxes away and faked the results. After all, sooner or later the parasites show their ugly heads, if you know what I mean.
Epilogue: When we came to the United States we had to pass some medical tests (in addition to the overpriced testing we were required to do in Moscow before we left). Then we received a mail-in stool sample kit, which consisted of some Popsicle sticks and cardboard envelopes. I was tempted to send my stuff in a box, but reconsidered and just threw the kits away.

They would have to pry a stool sample out of my……….