Automatic cars in the US are generally cheaper, more powerful, and are used to drive long distances on relatively straight roads. Europe is more densely populated and its old roads are small, bendy and require more anticipation, so manual gears allow the driver to be more reactive, selecting the right gear at the right time.
American driving can also involve a lot of stopping and starting: stop signs tend to be used in place of roundabouts, so manual gear changes become a nuisance.
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