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Opel mocks poor Budapest roads in “controversial” ad

Budapest, Hungary – For those who missed it last month, Opel, a German subsidiary of the French PSA Group, currently runs an ad mocking Budapest’s potholes and poor cobblestones streets. “Thank you, Budapest,” says the ad, “for reminding us how comfortable our ergonomic seats are.”

Originally intended for German and French televisions, the ad quickly made its way to social media in Hungary where it divided opinion. While many acknowledged the poor state of some the Hungarian capital’s roads, some felt that the German ad was disrespectful and insulting.

“I can’t believe it”, reads a comment reacting to the Opel ad, “you could easily have found other countries with even sh*tier streets than Budapest… I feel offended by all the Hungarian names.”

In its commercial, the German auto-manufacturer, who has an engine factory in Szentgotthárd, promotes its latest model, the Opel Grandland X, and its ergonomic seats, hence the use of Budapest’s cobbled street. In it, “Kristóf” enjoys a smooth ride through “the beautiful city of Budapest”, despite the many potholes and speed bumps he has to negotiate.

So are roads in Budapest that bad?

According to Daily News Hungary, “roads in the downtown areas [of Budapest] are fairly good, but further you go from the city centre, the worse the quality becomes. In the suburbs, the roads are especially bad…”

In an interesting opinion piece for Dome Magazine entitled “Why Budapest has better roads“, Veteran American journalist and Emmy Award winner Jack Lessenberry examines Central Europe’s approach to infrastructure. “I drove hundreds and hundreds of miles on roads in Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, without seeing anything resembling a pothole worthy of the name,” he says. 

“Today, Budapest is booming, the streets are crowded with VWs and Fords, Audis, BMWs and a few Nissans,” continues Lessenberry, before praising the city’s “efficient network of gleaming trams and trolleys, buses and trains.”

So why does Budapest have better roads than Detroit and other older industrial cities in the United States? Lessenberry, who traveled to the Hungarian capital in 1986 and called it a “sad, repressed place,” says that despite needing to completely reconstruct their economies after the collapse of Communism, Hungary and other Central European countries figured some things out that people in the United States haven’t.

“They believe that if you’re going to have a thriving economy,” he tells Michigan Radio, “you have to have good roads.”

Coordinated by Ábel Bede, Kafkadesk's Budapest office is made up of a growing team of freelance journalists, editors and fact-checkers passionate about Hungarian affairs and dedicated to bringing you all the latest news, events and insights from Hungary.