Published on November 5th, 2017 | by Subhash Nair


Could This Be a Hidden Problem in Most European Cars?

We hop in and out of a variety of cars on a regular basis. One thing that has really stood out to me is signal stalk placement.

You may not think this is an issue, but think of how many premium European car drivers in Malaysia neglect using their turn signals. We’re not saying this is the reason, but our explanation here could be of some value.

In most Japanese-engineered cars, the turn signal stalk is placed on the right side of the steering column. These are cars that are designed primarily for left hand traffic markets, so the driver sits on the right side. What we can also add here is that the gear selector will be operated by the driver’s left hand.

Typical Japanese car interior

In almost all European cars we drive, the turn signal stalk is located on the left side of the steering column. This, to us, is wrong, and likely a cost-saving move or a complete oversight. Let us explain our hypothesis.

These cars are designed primarily for right hand traffic markets. So, in the original models that you find in Europe and the US, the driver sits on the left side, with the transmission operated by the right hand.

Typical German car, left hand for signal, right hand for gear selection

Do you notice a similarity here? Both types of cars follow a mirror image. The driver has one hand that operates the turn signal stalk and another that operates the gear selector.

However, when European brands make left hand traffic variants, they simply take the entire assembly for the left hand driver stalks and chuck it into the left hand traffic variant. So you end up with situations where most European cars have a gear selector AND turn signal stalk on the left side.

Almost all European cars in our market – left hand for both signal and gear selection

Only 2 European brands are exempt from this rule. Ford and Mercedes-Benz. On Ford’s Thai-built models like the Focus, the signal stalk has been moved to the right hand side of the column.

On many Mercedes-Benz models, the gear selector has been moved to the steering column, so one hand operates either.

So, like we said, it’s probably not a significant factor given how many of these cars have automatic transmissions and paddle shifters. But what if the whole driver psychology is affected by the placement? We’ll need some real experts to look into this . What are your thoughts?

About the Author

Written work on @subhashtag on instagram. Autophiles Malaysia on Youtube.

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