Ford is addressing reported problems with its PowerShift dual-clutch transmission by better communicating with consumers about the technology.

Ford recently sent dealers a memo with instructions to help sales and service personnel enlighten consumers about the nuances of the fuel-saving 6-speed automatic gearbox, Ward's learns.

The move comes after the Blue Oval brand's Fiesta and Focus drew fire from influential third-party groups such as J.D. Power & Associates. The small cars are equipped with PowerShift DCTs, which some buyers slammed as balky.

Dual-clutch transmissions, essentially two manual transmissions working in parallel, each with its own independent clutch unit, sound and feel “different,” says Sherryl Brightwell, Fiesta brand manager.

Although the Ford gearboxes perform as intended, customers relate the frequency and abruptness of gearshifts to their experiences with conventional automatic transmissions. Hence, a perceived problem, the auto maker says.

“What we really want to convey is their experience is something different,” Brightwell tells Ward's, claiming there is nothing “wrong” with the car.

But it became an issue with the recent release of J.D. Power's annual initial quality study. Ford plummets to 23rd place from 2010's fifth-spot finish, partly because of reported PowerShift glitches.

Brightwell admits Ford was caught off-guard by the grievances. The auto maker's initial communications strategy stressed PowerShift's benefits, such as its capacity to reduce a Fiesta's fuel consumption up to 9%.

Dealership staff will be armed with simple explanations of the differences between PowerShift and standard automatics.