Ghosn’s Pay Rises as Nissan Profit Beats Rival Japan Carmakers’

Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn
Carlos Ghosn, chairman and chief executive officer of Nissan Motor Co. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

Nissan Motor Co. Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn’s pay rose to 987 million yen ($12 million) last fiscal year while bigger rival Toyota Motor Corp. left its CEO’s pay flat and Honda Motor Co. cut compensation.

The 58-year-old CEO’s pay increased from the 982 million yen he earned a year earlier, Ghosn said at the company’s annual general meeting today in Yokohama, Japan.

Nissan earned the most profit among Japanese carmakers last fiscal year for the first time in at least two decades, as Ghosn guided the automaker to a faster recovery than Toyota and Honda from an earthquake in Japan and floods in Thailand.

“Ghosn has done an incredible job in the last 10, 12 years in turning Nissan into a very solid company again,” Ashvin Chotai, London-based managing director for Intelligence Automotive Asia, said in a telephone interview. “His salary is a small price Nissan has to pay for his success.”

Nissan’s shares fell 1 percent to 721 yen as of 11:21 a.m. in Tokyo trading. The benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average declined 0.8 percent.

Publicly traded companies in Japan are required to disclose executive pay higher than 100 million yen a year. Ghosn was the highest-paid executive in the past two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Rivals’ Pay

Toyota President Akio Toyoda was paid 136 million yen for the year ended March 31, the same as the preceding year, according to a filing to Japan’s Financial Services Agency yesterday. Honda Motor Co. President Takanobu Ito earned 123 million yen in the same period, 5 percent less than the year earlier.

In comparison, Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally, the top-paid U.S. automotive industry executive in 2011, earned $29.5 million, more than double Ghosn’s compensation,according to Equilar Inc., a Redwood City, California-based executive-pay researcher.

“The executive pay in Europe and U.S. is, generally speaking, much higher than in Asia,” said Chotai. “Nissan’s performance depends more on what it does outside Japan rather than in Japan.”

For the fiscal year ended March 31, Nissan earned 341.4 billion yen in profit, 20 percent more than Toyota and 61 percent more than Honda -- the first time the Yokohama-based carmaker topped the Japanese auto industry, according to earnings data compiled by Bloomberg stretching back to 1992.

U.S. Sales

Ghosn, who’s also CEO of Renault SA, is targeting Nissan to eventually account for 10 percent of total U.S. vehicle sales, up from 8.2 percent last year.

In China, where Nissan is the top Japanese carmaker, the company sold 425,000 vehicles this year as of June 21, 20 percent more than a year earlier. Nissan forecast sales in its largest market will increase 8.3 percent to 1.35 million units this financial year.

China’s growth is still significant, even though it will slow, Ghosn told shareholders today in Yokohama. He said he’s still bullish on China.

The carmaker will continue investing in China, Executive Vice President Hiroto Saikawa said at the annual meeting.

Nissan’s lead may be short-lived as Toyota and Honda expect net income to jump to 760 billion yen and 470 billion yen respectively this fiscal year, compared with Nissan’s forecast for 400 billion yen.

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