In the never-ending pursuit of efficiency, performance and smooth power delivery, the next step forward for many carmakers is the adoption of the dual-clutch transmission. Once the province of high-end performance cars, dual-clutch units have been finding their way into everyday vehicles from Volkswagen, Volvo, Audi and more for years. Now Ford has announced its U.S. products will be joining the list starting in 2010.

The corporate technology behind the upcoming Ford dual clutch is dubbed Powershift, and Volvo has already begun rolling the units out in its C30 and other vehicles.

Like many other similar systems, the Powershift dual-clutch is capable of operation in both automatic and paddle-shifted manual modes, though individual implementations may vary. Since the U.S. debut of Ford-branded Powershift cars will begin with the small-car segment, it's possible that they will be automatic only to save on cost and complexity.

Whether user-shifted or not, however, dual clutch transmissions have been hailed for their efficiency and power. "This advanced six-speed is an improvement over today's automatic transmissions in terms of fuel economy, while providing customers an even more fun-to-drive experience," said Barb Samardzich, Ford's global powertrain engineering vice president.

The Powershift unit is also part of Ford's plan to move all of its vehicles to six-speed gearboxes by 2013. The dual-clutch units will begin hitting U.S. showrooms in 2010, though which cars will be first to receive them is yet unknown. Prime candidates in the small-car arena are the upcoming global Focus and Fiesta. Other cars likely to get the transmission after its initial debut include the new Fusion Hybrid, which would benefit directly from the greater efficiency of the architecture.