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Steering Savings

Implementing a satellite car rental program saves a U.S. chemical company $18,000 in soft savings


For travelers who get around by car, having rental cars on hand all day, every day, sounds convenient – but sometimes proximity and availability aren’t enough. A U.S.-based chemical company with an annual travel spend of $43 million had an onsite car rental program, whereby cars under a monthly lease were parked in a nearby parking lot. Employees had easy access to rental cars at a reduced rate to use for short driving trips, but scheduling and paying for the cars was difficult. To use a car, employees had to call the office receptionist, who would make a note about the reservation and hold the keys. Billing was tricky, because the company had to manually calculate what percentage of the monthly bills should be billed to each employee, department or cost center, based on written records. And even if the cars weren’t used, the company still had to pay the car rental company a flat fee for the cars sitting in the parking lot. They were losing time and money.


The chemical company, an American Express Global Business Travel client for more than 30 years, knew they needed to simplify their manual process. We spoke with the car rental company, and they suggested implementing an innovative unmanned satellite program, which uses radio frequency and smartphone technology so that travelers can begin rental agreements, unlock the cars, and return them and close out the rental agreement, all on their own.

The car rental company swapped out the original cars for new ones equipped with radio receivers. They needed to make sure travelers knew how to use them, but that wasn’t their area of expertise. American Express Global Business Travel has spent decades working with businesses around the world, and we’ve developed our data, expertise, tools and processes into best practices that can help clients benchmark and evolve their travel programs. We used this knowledge and experience to come up with a plan, including communications and training materials for the chemical company’s employees, to help the car rental company carry out its unmanned satellite program.


Today, the chemical company has more cars in the parking lot with more technology – and the technology gives them, and the car rental company, accurate insight into who’s using what car and when. Manual reservations are no longer required, and the client only pays for the cars their employees actually use. They’ve also fully automated the billing process: when an employee returns a car, the bill goes straight to their corporate card. That’s added up to $18,000 in savings for the client.