Typically, salaries represent a relatively small proportion of the total earnings of a big-time auto executive. But while the big bucks come from performance bonuses and generous stock options, base salaries like Mary Barra's $1.6 million and Mark Field's $1.7 million are still lavish enough to easily outpace the salary of the average American.

Elon Musk is hardly the average American (or even South African), but we could include him the aforementioned group, since his income at Tesla will barely squeak above the state of California's minimum-wage requirements. According to the company's most recent proxy filing with the SEC, Musk's salary amounts to just $37,440, which is actually up from the $35,360 he was paid last year. The South African-born entrepreneur has made something of a habit of taking a small salary, passing on all but $1 of his $33,280 salary back in 2013.

Of course, it's not like he needs the money. As Auto Guide reports, Musk is worth about $6.2 billion, and in 2012, he made $78.1 million off Tesla's soaring stocks. So in reality, he far outstrips the earnings of his colleagues at Ford, General Motors and elsewhere.

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