Global Industry Overview: Passenger Car Rental

Car rental firms provide short-term use of automobiles and light trucks to consumers and businesses.

Industry Snapshot

In some respects, the car rental industry is less traditional in makeup than other industries, although it remains a major player in the world market. Its initial development was primarily a U.S. phenomenon, and U.S.-owned companies have continued to dominate the industry. Small European companies opened, primarily after World War II, but most eventually became affiliates or subsidiaries of the U.S. firms.

The twenty-first century has been a challenging one for the industry. The terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, and the ensuing sluggish economy contributed to declining revenues and fleet sizes during the early 2000s. For example, in the United States, the rental car fleet fell from a high of 1.83 million vehicles in 2000 to 1.64 million vehicles in 2002. But by 2004, the car rental industry was showing improvement, with revenues increasing to US$17.4 billion from US$16.45 billion in 2003.