So You Want To Be CEO Of A Global Automaker? Wait Until You Hear The Pay

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Judging from their writings, many TTAC commenters are prime candidates for a job as CEO at one of the world’s largest automakers. However, be careful who you work for. Executive pay is all over the map. It ranges from a charitable contribution of $1.71 million given to Toyota’s CEO, to nearly $29 million a year on Ford’s Alan Mulally’s paystub.

This according to a table circulated among reporters who, perched precariously in the 6th floor balcony of the National Convention Hall at the Pacifico in Yokohama, observed Nissan’s 113th ordinary general shareholders meeting today.

What Auto CEOs Make

Toyoda’s pay was not on the table , it probably was too small to register properly. As a principal shareholder, Toyoda most likely has more tax efficient ways of remuneration at his disposal. Also, his career choices are limited, he is unlikely to be seduced by rival carmakers. Honda President Takanobu Ito’s salary ($1.55 million p.a.) also was too low for the table compiled by executive pay consultants Towers Watson.

Ghosn’s job is not up for grabs anyway. Despite rumors spread by Bloomberg last week, Ghosn is not about to retire. Those who waited for an announcement today went home disappointed. Instead, the press corps could witness (but not overhear) a stern and somewhat one-sided exchange of opinions between Bloomberg reporter Yuki Hagiwara and her alleged source Koji Okuda.

With the top spot out of the question, you may have your sights set on a board seat at Nissan. Again, be careful. Ghosn’s lieutenants are paid “below the median of the global market,” their boss says. Except for Ghosn and 5 other directors, no Nissan executive is paid more than “one oku yen,” which converts to $1.25 million, as TTAC’s advisor in cross-cultural affairs, Frau Schmitto-san, and a forex table assure me.

However, those salaries are about to rise. “In the future we have to make a more significant investment in executive compensation,” says Ghosn. In a clear reference to the talent pool in TTAC’s commentariat, Ghosn continues: “Recruiting and retaining the industry’s best and brightest is a competitive advantage that we cannot afford to lose.”

To rub it in, Ghosn says that he knows “from recent experience that our executives are also the target of recruitment from global competitors.” Ghosn himself was offered the much higher paying job as CEO of Ford, which he turned down. There also had been a chance of Ghosn heading up a merged GM and Renault, an alliance that was famously torpedoed by Rick Wagoner. With the $12.5 million from Nissan, and another $3.5 million from Renault, Ghosn makes as much as Marchionne, and he should be quite comfortable.

If Nissan’s Ghosn and his “paid below the median of the global market” executive team were hoping for compassion from the media, the hope was in vain. No compassion was forthcoming. First reports, beamed from the perch while the shareholders were still convening, were headlined that “Nissan’s Ghosn remains Japan’s top-paid CEO” and that “Ghosn’s Pay Rises as Nissan Profit Beats Rival Japan Carmakers’.”

Still interested in a top job at one of the world’s largest carmakers? Be careful, you will have many enviers. Before Nissan’s shareholders could attend the meeting, they had to walk a gauntlet of vociferous protesters who were against global standards in executive pay.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Tikki50 Tikki50 on Jun 26, 2012

    CEO = Corporate Embezzlement Oportunist. No person is worth that, heck its not like the 100 people surrounding them dont "assist" with ideas, they didnt magically come up with a winner and deserve 9 million, right along with other the assisting directors they are way over paid for what they do. Unfortunately they are a small cult of people, hence the club mentality and why you wont see wage increases on the masses.

  • Glen.H Glen.H on Jun 27, 2012

    A bit of background here-Japanese CEOs generally don't tend to get as much as their American, and increasingly, European equivalents right across business. There is much less inequality in earnings from top to bottom in Japan as competition between individuals is seen as less desirable than in Western society and working as a cohesive group is more prized.

  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Funny comparison:
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Some insight.
  • Amwhalbi I know this is apples and oranges, but I'd rather have an Elantra N, a Jetta GLI or a Civic Si than either the Mustang or the Z.
  • Scott Miata for the win.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X On a list of things to spend my time and money on, doing an EV conversion on a used car is about ten millionth.