Dual-clutch automated manual transmissions that can shift like an automatic will triple their penetration in the next few years, as two new facilities to produce them come on line.

In late 2005, BorgWarner Inc. broke ground on a new factory at its site near Tulle, France, to build more of its hugely acclaimed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT), and last summer, the Getrag Ford Transmissions GmbH joint venture invested E300 million ($364 million) in a new plant in Slovakia that will begin making dual-clutch transmissions under a BorgWarner license.

BorgWarner's current DCT production is at its factory in Arnstadt, Germany, next to the BorgWarner European Advanced Transmission Development Center.

BorgWarner developed DCT with Volkswagen AG (VW has tagged the transmission Direct Shift Gearbox, or DSG) for introduction in 2003 on the VW Golf R32 DSG and the Audi TT 3.2. The technology has been added to nine other VW Group products since and was shown last year in the Bugatti 16.4 Veyron.

In the U.S., the transmission is available in the VW Jetta, New Beetle and GTI and the Audi A3 and TT coupe/roadster.

While only Volkswagen Group so far has deployed the technology, it soon will spread to Ford Motor Co. and three other European auto makers. In addition, BorgWarner Chairman and CEO Tim Manganello said a year ago he expected the dual-clutch automated manual to gain a foothold in North America and Japan by 2010.

Normal manual transmissions, and robotized versions, require an interruption in torque flow during gearchanges, when the clutch is disengaged and re-engaged as the next gear is selected. The dual-clutch technology shifts seamlessly because two individual clutches ensure the next desired gear already is engaged when the clutch for the current gear is disengaged.

The system appeals to drivers who want sporty control, as the system permits seamless manual shifting, sequentially, as well as a full-automatic mode. All clutch work is automatic, and there is no clutch pedal.

Largely because there is no power-sapping torque converter, BorgWarner says the system generates 15% better fuel economy when compared with a traditional automatic, and it costs less.

Ford apparently plans to use the technology in both cars and SUVs, as BorgWarner competitor Getrag GmbH displayed transmissions for both kinds of vehicles at the Frankfurt auto show in September.

BorgWarner also says it has three new European customers for the technology, but it has not revealed them. Consultants Frost and Sullivan in London predict Renault SA, PSA Peugeot Citroen and General Motors Corp. also will offer the technology by 2012 in significant volumes.

In their study published last summer — “European Market for Next Generation Transmission Technologies” — the consultants said dual-clutch transmissions are expected to gain a market share of about 12%-13% by the year 2012.

BorgWarner is more enthusiastic. Manganello has predicted DCT penetration in Europe will reach 18% by 2010 and 20% by 2015.

Auto makers leading the market now for manual transmissions will benefit most from the dual-clutch versions, says the Frost & Sullivan study, because their customers are ready to move upscale and will pay for the convenience and performance.

In 2004, conventional 3-pedal manual transmissions dominated about 71% of the European market, conventional torque-converter automatics held about 22%, continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) about 3%, and robotized manuals and dual-clutch transmissions about 2% each.

Dual-clutch automated manuals and simpler single-clutch robotized manual transmissions are each expected to reach 12%-14% of the market by 2012, reducing the share of conventional manual transmissions to 49% by 2012, according to the consultants, while CVTs and automatics hold their current shares.

The Getrag Ford Transmissions joint venture has grown since it was established in 2001, from 3,700 employees to 3,900, and another 750 are expected at the plant in Czech Republic, which will begin making motorcycle transmissions in 2006 and dual-clutch automotive transmissions in 2007.

Getrag Ford is investing about E300 million ($364 million) in its greenfield plant at Kechnec, Slovakia, where it broke ground last July. The JV expects to reach annual revenues of E300-E400 million ($486 million) at full production.