Periodically, public outrage pops up over the lavish pay packages of corporate executives. Last week was one of those times—with an unusual twist: General Motors (GM) faced criticism based on allegations that Mary Barra, its new chief executive officer and the first woman to lead a U.S. automaker, wasn’t being paid enough. It was, for a brief time, cited as evidence that the gender pay gap persists, even at the highest echelons of corporate America.
The numbers seemed flawed from the get-go, as Bloomberg Businessweek‘s Sheelah Kolhatkar made clear, since they didn’t include stock awards tied to company performance. On Monday GM released further details to make it clear that Barra will be quite well paid: She could make as much as $14.4 million this year.
That’s a lot of money. Her predecessor at GM, former Carlyle Group (CG) executive Daniel Akerson, received $1.7 million in salary and an additional $7.3 million in stock last year. Barra’s pay might fall short of the most recently disclosed compensation for top executives at Ford (F) or Volkswagen (VOW:GR), but it beats that of many CEOs in the auto industry—in some cases, by a considerable amount.
Here’s a list by company:
• Ford: Alan Mulally, $21 million
• VW: Martin Winterkorn, $19.8 million
• Diamler (DAI:GR): Deiter Zetsche, $11.1 million
• Nissan (7201:JP): Carlos Ghosn, $9.7 million
• BMW (BMW:GR): Norbert Reithofer, $9 million
• Fiat (F:IM): Sergio Marchionne, $6 million
• Toyota (TM): Akio Toyoda, $1.8 million
• Honda (HMC): Takanobu Ito, $1.4 million
It has yet to be seen where Barra will land on this list. Last month, GM said its new leader would earn $1.6 million in salary and $2.8 million as part of the company’s short-term incentive plan; only time will tell how longer-term compensation is doled out. If she makes every potential dollar, it will still be less than what GM CEO Rick Wagoner made in 2008 ($16.5 million), before and during the crash, and will be almost exactly what he made in 2007.
Setting incentives for executives to hit can be difficult, says Kevin Tynan, an analyst at Bloomberg Industries. Does an effective chief executive maximize stock price or market share? If market share, are all markets created equal? “It sort of depends of what you tag these numbers to,” says Tynan. “Is what they’re doing in China more heavily weighted than what they’re doing in Europe and North America?”
As of now, the numbers don’t quite match up with what company is selling the most cars. Mulally’s Ford is the world’s sixth-largest automaker, according to Bloomberg Industries. Total compensation for the chairman of the world’s top automaker, Toyota, is barely above Barra’s base salary. A cultural difference clearly stands out, though it has nothing to do with gender: Japanese executives make peanuts compared to their counterparts. Barra’s compensation this year could be 7.5 times what Akio Toyoda makes.
If you’re really looking for outliers, though, look to electric car mogul Elon Musk, founder of Tesla (TSLA). His pay package was $78 million in 2012, when his company sold all of 2,650 cars.