Why Aren’t European Cars in Southeast Asia Sold With a Manual?

While older BMWs and Mercedes Benz models are used as beaters or have their rear fenders inward owed to being a drift missile everywhere else, Southeast Asia’s share of them are more or less the same; they are either treated with utmost respect by their owners, or sitting in a driveway in wait for a new owner. Despite their age, older BMWs and MBs are still in rather high regard, being treated as an enthusiast’s choice or an old money’s transporter. While they are about as affordable as a used minivan, not many are willing to buy them, despite the fact that they all mostly come with automatic transmissions.

Unlike other markets, you’ll find that most models from both brands in the early nineties and onward do not offer a manual transmission. The newer the model, the least likely you’ll find a used or new example with three pedals. It should be obvious that in the eyes of the average Joe, an automatic transmission is preferred in any case. The practicality is far more superior than that of a manual, especially in most capital cities of Asia, where having to hold the clutch in stop-and-go traffic is torment in itself. Of course, you’ll find that laboring your legs and left hand would save more fuel, but no one would want sore legs after a drive.

There is, however, more reasoning to why manuals are not a thing in post-2000’s luxury cars. Most of them were imports, and even if they had a manufacturing plant in a country, it was still a thing of the higher classes. Inflation was little, but the majority could only dream of being in or even owning a German car. As such, those who bought them would naturally go for an automatic. Even if it was, say, a 318i, the price tag states that it deserves its price tag. If you had the money for getting one straight out of a dealer, chances are you were sensible enough to go all-in and buy it with an auto; and in most cases, it was the only option. Helped by the fact that the world was still used to the stick shift, automatics were regarded as a luxury, going in tandem with being in premium vehicles. Throwing in the superior transmission for a car meant for the one-percent creates the belief and demand that for brands in the caliber of Mercedes Benz, their products should be configured with the best options; which in turn provides justification for the value.

To this day, manufacturers with the likes of both Germans do not offer manual transmissions in Southeast Asia. Neither do they offer optional extras. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that most of their buyers couldn’t care for the little things, as everything that comes with the car is adequate to their standards.

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