JAMIE LaREAU

Do dealerships and divorces go hand-in-hand?

Jamie LaReau covers auto dealers for Automotive NewsJamie LaReau covers auto dealers for Automotive News
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Maybe you're just hard to get along with.

Or maybe those long, odd work hours deprive you of valuable family time.

Whatever the case, the divorce rate for car dealership employees seems anecdotally high. At least that's an observation made by some dealership employees on a Facebook Web chat.

In reality, according to a recent study, auto dealership employees might fall more toward the middle of the pack in terms of relative divorce rates compared with other jobs.

Business Manager Mike Conn says most of his colleagues at Dreyer & Reinbold, a dealership group in Greenwood, Ind., have been divorced at least once.

The nature of retail requires working evenings and weekends, Conn says. That can take a toll on a marriage. Conn's 34-year marriage is intact partly because his wife is in the business too, he says.

But Conn says the cause of divorce extends beyond hours.

"Many retail stores and food service businesses are open on Sundays and late nights, so I don't know if we have it worse than any one of them," Conn says.

Joe Opolski, a finance and insurance manager at Roy O'Brien Ford in suburban Detroit, points out that Michigan does not permit Sunday sales. His store is closed on Saturday too. He says being available on weekends for his wife and three sons has contributed to the success of his nearly 14-year marriage.

But is the auto retail industry really the home-wrecker it seems?

According to a 2010 study, working for a car dealership did not even make the top 40 jobs with the highest relative divorce rates. The study examined divorce rates of 512 occupations.

Small engine repair mechanics ranked 120 on the list, parts sales people came in at 121 and sales representatives, services and "all others" came in at 150.

Conn says if divorce runs high in the auto retail world, he believes the problem lies with the Type A personalities the business tends to attract more than the long, odd work hours.

"How do you get to be a sales manager, general manager or any upper-level manager in a car dealership?" Conn says. "You might be hard to live with because you have to be driven, hard-lined and have the attitude of, a lot of what I say is right."

You can reach Jamie LaReau at jlareau@crain.com. -- Follow Jamie on Twitter

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