Lucid CEO’s $379 million annual pay draws criticism from billionaire Elon Musk: ‘Beware any company where leadership compensation is not linked to performance’

It’s rare for CEOs to rebuke their peers’ outlandish pay packages—mostly because they’d be throwing stones from glass houses—but Lucid Motors’ CEO Peter Rawlinson drew sharp criticism from his EV rival Elon Musk on Monday after earning the title of the highest paid executive in the automotive business.

“Beware any company where leadership compensation is not linked to performance,” the Tesla CEO wrote on X in response to a post about Rawlinson’s pay.

Rawlinson received a $379 million compensation package in 2022 for his role at the luxury EV maker Lucid, including a $575,000 base salary, $5.5 million of stock options, and an incredible $373 million in stock awards, according to a new CEO compensation survey from Automotive News and Equilar. 

Notwithstanding Musk’s criticism, Rawlinson earned his huge pay package after hitting market-cap targets for Lucid early last year, SEC filings show. Lucid, like 88% of the 250 largest publicly traded U.S. firms, now uses performance-based compensation for at least some portion of its executive pay.

“One reason we see pay-for-performance models favored is they are generally viewed more favorably by the shareholders, to the extent that the achievement of financial performance is linked to value creation for the shareholders,” Noah Kaplan, a managing director at the management consulting firm FW Cook, told Fortune of the trend in March.

Still, it makes sense that Musk would believe Rawlinson’s pay was not linked to performance. After all, Lucid’s stock fell more than 82% in 2022, and the company earned total revenue of just $608.2 million. Also, when comparing Rawlinson’s pay to his peers in the automotive business, his latest compensation package appears expreme. Rawlinson’s total compensation in 2022 was 11 times greater than the $34 million earned by the second-highest-paid automotive CEO, GM’s Mary Barra, and 21 times greater than the $18.3 million Ford CEO Jim Farley made. 

CEOs at fellow EV startups aren’t making anywhere near Rawlinson’s total compensation, either. Rivian Automotive CEO Robert Scaringe earned roughly $1 million in 2022, even though his company is now worth over $22 billion, over 50% more than Lucid Motors’ roughly $14 billion. 

Musk, for comparison, didn’t earn any money directly from his role as Tesla CEO last year, but the billionaire has been criticized for the $23 billion bonus he received in 2021 after hitting performance targets for both earnings and stock price appreciation — a deal that was unprecedented when it was struck in 2018. And, as Tesla’s largest shareholder, Musk continues to benefit handsomely from the company’s stock price growth.

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