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This paper is a strategic analysis of Tesla Motors, Inc. wrote to answer the following problematic: “How Tesla Motors Inc. can improve its strategy to sustain its competitive advantage on the electric vehicle market and confirm its position as a transformational leader in sustainable life-style?”
Strategic Analysis of Tesla Motors Inc.
Auconie Nicolas & Kefi Sandes
Table of content
Executive summary ....................................................................................................................1
A) Internal Analysis ..........................................................................................................3
a. Tesla performances..................................................................................................3
b. Organization’s resources..........................................................................................3
c. General competences and capabilities....................................................................4
B) External analysis ..........................................................................................................7
a. Macro-environment: PESTEL analysis......................................................................7
b. Competitive rivalry: PORTER five forces..................................................................9
C) Diagnostic ..................................................................................................................10
Conclusion and short-term recommendations........................................................................12
This paper is a strategic analysis of Tesla Motors, Inc. wrote to answer the following
problematic: “How Tesla Motors Inc. can improve its strategy to sustain its competitive
advantage on the electric vehicle market and confirm its position as a transformational leader
in sustainable life-style?”.
Our strategic analysis highlights key information concerning internal and external
environments of Tesla Motors Inc. The company is an electric car manufacturer but also an
energy management services provider. Elon Musk is the current CEO and apply
transformational leadership methods to run its business. This transformational leadership led
to tesla diversification from proper car to energy storage and solar cells and is a high
competitive advantage than tesla must care and develop to extend its brand quicker across
the globe. Tesla is relatively young in the industry, it was created in 2003. This youth is a
double -edged which has allowed the electric car manufacturer to develop a short technologic
advance on its traditional competitors but also make the company’s growth especially fragile
and threatened by many variables like legal decisions, technologic issues or deliveries
postpone. According to our external analysis the macro-environment is relatively profitable
for tesla and especially criteria like social, ecological and technologic participate to shape a
solid ground for a next take-off. The present barriers for Tesla to such a take-off are the next
entries of traditional car makers in the electric car market. Indeed, these old companies have
important disposals and can produce far more than tesla currently do. Competitors’
assessment suggests the major part of traditional car makers will have start to deliver high
quality electric models from here to early 2020 maximum. Tesla had already invested money
to increase its production capacity but should inject time and energy to reach a sufficient
threshold soon enough to take the leader position in the high quality electric car market
before its competitors. Otherwise it will be rude to recover. Nevertheless, a development of
the energy management services could provide to tesla sufficient economic resources to
remain important on the market and compete on the long run with classic car makers making
Our strategic recommendations for Tesla are to develop Solar roof the larger they could to
extend their brand across the whole world, to create a “Pro-Pack” including tesla model III for
employees and Power Pack for the company energy management, and finally to sign many
partnerships with established traditional car makers to provide them core pieces of their final
electric cars like batteries or engines.
Tesla Motors Inc is a relatively young public company which build electric vehicles and provide
services for personal and professional energy management. Founded in July 2003 by Martin
Ederhard, Marc Tarpening, JB Straubel, Ian Wright and Elon Musk – Current CEO – the
company is based in Palo Alto California and went public in 2010. The manufacturer whose
name pays tribute to the scientist Nikola Tesla is specialized in commercializing high quality
electric cars empowered by high performing battery packs. Moreover, Tesla sells powertrain
components and produce battery charging equipments to complete its offer.
Tesla Motors started its business by launching its electric sport car called the Tesla Roadster
in 2008 which is known to be the first car using lithium-ions for its battery instead of classic
fuels; The Tesla Roadster shined in the competition of Monte-Carlo (competition for the
alternative energy) where it arouses interest of some powerful individuals. Since, Tesla has
expanded its vehicle offer with tree additional models, the S, the X and the III, whose deliveries
began respectively in 2012, 2015 and 2017. On the long term, Elon Musk’s goals is to produce
a large range of models, counting more affordable cars (the Tesla Roader is worth €84 000)
although keep producing luxury ones. Furthermore, a highly transformational leadership from
Musk consists in making Tesla not only a car maker but more widely a sustainable lifestyle
provider. Emphasizing the move toward ecologic solutions using solar electric energy, which
is today considered as the more reachable sustainable solution, Tesla thus plans to be able
from now to 2020 to produce a complete sustainable package including electric cars, smart
batteries and efficient solar cells technologies.
To achieve its transformational vision while remaining financially reliable, the company is
facing many opportunities. Whether by the sales expansion of its cars from a B2C to B2B, by
selling patented electric powertrain components to automakers just entering the electric car
market or by developing self-driving software making customer experience improved, Tesla
electric car manufacturing know-how is a huge asset in a market still very young. On top of
that, Tesla has applied diversification to its business and has settled some partnership to
produce battery power packs for domestic and professional applications (Panasonic) as well
as highly competitive solar panels with Solar city next acquisition.
According the present overview and additional data used through this report, we have
decided to set up the next problematic to Tesla Motors Inc.
How Tesla Motors Inc. can improve its strategy to sustain its
competitive advantage on the electric vehicle market and confirm its
position as a transformational leader in sustainable life-style?
A) Internal Analysis
a. Tesla performances
Tesla Motors’ performances are quiet encouraging. A steady growth in revenues comes to
balance a negative net income what suggests a future ability to create value. Moreover,
investments in R&D, Capital expenditure and operating expenses have steadily increased since
2010 to pick in 2015 explaining an important decrease in cash flows this precise year. By and
large, Tesla performance are significantly related to its position relative to the general industry
life cycle. Indeed, according data, Tesla is slipping from its Birth phase to its Growth phase
meaning that ultimate investments required to face substantial growth and then profit just
happened and require a few years to show sufficient returns. Tesla is therefore in transition
and need more than ever to build a consistent and long-term strategy for its growth and
b. Organization’s resources
Tesla Motors Financial/Physical resources:
According the Tesla Balance Sheet, Tesla Motors has $1.2 billion in cash reserve for a total $8
billion in total assets. The company owns its factory, the Tesla Factory which is in South
Fremont California and can produce 2000 cars per week for a total of 100 000 per year.
Another factory located in Nevada, the Gigafactory which has been financed by Tesla and
some of its partners including Panasonic, is currently operational and should reach its optimal
activity by 2018 thus pushing down batteries costs by 30%. The 17th of November 2016, the
merger with the solar cells manufacturer Solar city – a firm whose board of director is close to
Tesla – has been validated by both executives. This merger should allow Tesla to become a
leader in solar cells market. Ultimately, Tesla is discussing with the German automated
manufacturer Grohmann Engineering for an eventual acquisition which should allow Tesla to
reach a 500 000-annual production and meet the current 300 000 demand.
Tesla Motors Technological Resources:
What we consider as intangible asset for Tesla Motors is mostly Intellectual Property, Brand
Valuation and Valuable Know-How. Concerning Intellectual Property, Tesla policy is clear and
consistent with Elon Musk’s long term vision; “All our patent are belong to you” titles an
official tesla publication from the July 12 of 2014. This open source shift means $0 will be
made on tesla numerous patents. The brand value question is far more complex. A HEC study
conducted in 2016 compute the Tesla Motors brand value by combining Benchmark, Cost-
based, Market-based and Income-based methods. Results expose an average Brand value of
14 634 million, with a minimum of 2 823 million and a maximum of 28 517 million. These
important variations depending on the computation methodology highlight something
especially relevant concerning Tesla Brand Value; those who are long on TSLA stock are
especially more optimistic than the short side and claim that Tesla Motors has an incredible
value as a brand, embodied by a high visionary strategy led by its CEO Elon Musk. In addition,
the tesla know-how concerning electric car and energy storage is critically useful knowing
almost every traditional car makers will produce electric car as soon as 2018.
c. General competences and capabilities
We can split Tesla Motors competences and capabilities in tree sub categories. The two firsts,
Electric Vehicle Manufacturing (EVM) and High Performance Battery Manufacturing (HPBM)
are proper competences which materialize in concrete Strategic Business Units, while the
third one is one intangible capability involving a more abstract Tesla power; The capability to
draw a consistent future.
Electric Vehicle Manufacturing
• Tesla Model S
• Tesla Model X
• Tesla Model III
Tesla Motors’ offer in electric vehicles consists in tree high quality models all equipped by last
high technologies; self-driving, smart decision making, High interaction with the car through
beautiful screen. On top of that, each model has a high-level design and an exceptional
traction power supported by an ultra-efficient electric propulsion. The Model S is the luxury
sport model of Tesla which has the highest acceleration on the current car market (0 to 100
in 2,7 seconds) and which is sold between $70 000 and $150 000. The Model X is a luxury SUV
equipped with the same technology than the model S with a higher autonomy and a lower
acceleration than its sister S (3,1 seconds against 2,7) although this feature is still exceptionally
high on a SUV. The Model III has been unveiled on march the 31 of 2016 and should start to
be delivered in early 2017. Unlike his two luxury sisters, the model III is targeting middle
classes. Starting from $35 000, it is positioned on top of the range rather than in luxury. Design
and quality are impeccable but the main sacrifices are made on the proper performances.
High Performance Battery manufacturing
• Tesla Power Wall
• Tesla Power Pack
• Tesla Solar Roof
At the same time, Tesla Motors diversifies its activity and have chosen to use its know-how in
battery manufacturing to develop smart energy management services. Combining its high
efficient batteries to smart software built by American best engineers, the firm extends its
offer by proposing Smart Power tools. The Powerwall (currently in version 2) consists in a
compact box available for $6 000 to $7 000 which allows household to manage its energy
consumption; stock the electricity produced by renewable energies, make it usable for
domestic applications, smartly manage flux to sell surplus in low-need period and keep
reserve for periods especially voracious in energy. Tesla also makes available the professional
version of its Power Wall; the Tesla Power Pack. Especially designed for companies’ needs, the
Power Pack consists broadly in the same utilization than the Power Wall but is built for being
integrated in every company with multiple configurations and flexible options. Tesla Solar
Roof has been announced on last October before the confirmation of an eventual merger with
Solar City. Despite that we don’t have much information now, ones we have are quite
attractive; Solar Roof should consist in real like tiles based on a technology that allow us to
see transparency – to reach solar cells – only if we are under a certain angle with the tile.
Otherwise, we see the colour originally applied to the raw material replicating classic tile
colours from Slate Black to Tile Orange. Elon Musk evoked that their tiles should cost even less
than traditional one, we will remain cautious on this information.
Capability to draw a consistent future
• Transformational leadership
Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk is a brilliant entrepreneur involved in many successful tech
companies (Zip2, PayPal, Space X, Tesla Motors, Hyperloop, Powerwall, Open AI). Through
these projects, Musk engaged himself in Financial autonomy, Space exploration and especially
Mars conquest, Ultra-speed transportation technology, Sustainable life-style and Artificial
Intelligence. These problematics are all critical for the next future and the fact to be involved
in each of them is for Tesla’s CEO an incredible source of world-wide influence. Dubai recently
signed with Hyperloop to build a high-speed network in its growing capital what suggest
financial support shouldn’t be an issue for Musk outlooks. By drawing this future through its
engagements, Musk creates a long term optimistic scenario within which every business he
has developed have a high-potential to broadly improve the world-wide situation. This
transformational leadership could be the hidden feature of Musk’s businesses; it may be the
hidden Brand value of Tesla, the reason why investors invest in hyperloop or even the only
path toward an interplanetary transportation system. Who knows up to where a great mind
can change a world?
B) External analysis
a. Macro-environment: PESTEL analysis
Many governments today are looking for reducing CO2 emissions and consequently are
setting up public subvention policies to support their citizens in buying zero emissions
vehicles. In France, there are fiscal advantages and even discounts on the buy price if the
products are ecologically responsible. In the US, car makers must distribute a minimum of ZEV
credits which encourage them to produce zero emissions vehicles. These ZEV have however
been recently threatened by Donald Trump, US elected president, but Musk says it could even
have positive impacts on Tesla’s activity. Remain the Border question which is a threat for
most of US car makers disposing plant in Mexico in contrast to tesla which has plant only into
the US territory.
The risk of Lawsuits engaged by patent trolls is still present. The development of new products
by Tesla must be conducted carefully being aware of intellectual property barriers.
Nevertheless, Tesla open-source shift can discourage most of these dangers. Another legal
involvement for Tesla is an important lack of legislation in artificial intelligence decision
making which is yet used in tesla auto-pilot. If problems related to self-driving decisions would
become too much frequent, it could be a bad new for tesla which could see its deliveries
The general cost for lithium-ions cells is decreasing which allow Tesla to build for lower cost
and increase its profit margin. The demand for solar panels is rising around the world and the
market is astronomic (78,2% of the global energy is from fuel, 19% is from renewable,
including only 0,7% of solar). Tesla Electric Vehicles need charging stations which must spread
proportionally to car sales. On top of that, Tesla self-driving software as well as various uses
of artificial intelligence always more autonomous raise ethical issues concerning decisions
making, and Microsoft, Amazon, Google and IBM just gather within “Partnership for AI” to
discuss about these problematics.
Advertising campaigns and attacks against fuel energies begin to affect people and the
Millennials generation is deeply engaged in this problematic. Energetic transition is accepted
as “must happen as soon as possible” by citizens and plenty companies, not by Trump. A
general distrust in the current system and especially in finance creates a large will to become
autonomous as well on energy than on finance or commodities.
A global uncertainty leads the market around the world although US recently show historically
high result on stocks indexes (S&P 500 break up its highest records). Oil prices are low, since
their major fall in 2014 West Texas Crude oil and Brent didn’t break their $60 resistances,
which means that when oil prices will surge again, certain people could be economically
constraint to transit toward renewable.
Ecological findings make a global consensus symbolized by the cop 21 agreements signed by
183 countries. These agreements engage countries to do their maximum to limit the global
warming under 2°C in 2100. On the shorter term, the 20,20,20 goal is the common objective.
meaning minus 20% in fuel consumption, 20% of global energy being renewable from here to
2020. Ecological consequences of human activities are numerous and each day a scientist
review alert about effects far more irreversible than what we though.
b. Competitive rivalry: PORTER five forces
- Safety norms for electronic products empower the
government to legaly delay deliveries.
- Ethical issues concering Self-driving decision making
empower the government to sue tesla for AI
- Financial partcipation and help provided by
governments make tesla's activities leveraged by
Threat of substitution (2/5)
- considering electric car market (no matter H2,
biofuel, biogaz), medium potential of substitution
driven by commun transports, bicycle trends or low-
cost car subscription programs (Autolib').
- considering widely sustainable life-style market (a
relatively young market), low potential of substitution
evidenced by small amount of available alternatives in
providing intelligent energy management services to
individual and profetionnals.
Supplier power (3/5)
- Engeenering are produced by tesla and Lithium ions
cells are supplied by panasonic with which tesla
conclude a partnership to built a Gigafactory in
nevada decreasing battery final cost by 30% from here
- Solar pannels for Solar Roof are provided by solar
city which will soon merge with Tesla.
- demand is growing with the accessible model 3 (35
000$) and tesla forecast a production growth from
100 000 in 2015 to 500 000 in 2020. Competition is
important in various car engine supplier but a
necessity to shift could cost tesla a lot in delivery
Buyer power (2/5)
- Buyers are spreading around the world in several
countries with different juridictions. Collective actions
in order to push price down have consequently low
probability to occur.
- In case of important defaults, they could gather their
miscontent to force tesla decrease its prices.
- Due to an agressive price strategy, arguments to
push prices even lower are rare.
-Delivery processes are long and deadline often
delayed what could make customers claming for
Threat of new entry (4/5)
- High financial barriers for new entrants in the car
industry making new entrant very occasional.
- Traditional car manufacturer will entry the electric
car market as soon as 2017 or already did. They
embody a high short-term threat on electric car
Porter five forces analysis highlights a dominant pressure coming from potential new entry
which could be especially damageable for Tesla if the company can’t catch the market soon
enough to keep a solid competitive advantage on traditional car manufacturers. Furthermore,
governments’ and suppliers’ pressures are moderately high which means in case of major
issues with either the tesla auto-pilot or the way Tesla supply its raw materials, the company
could face important difficulties to go through. Concerning buyer power, Tesla is relatively
safe and should meet its customer satisfaction quiet easily, except if a major default on a
production makes them obliged to bring back delivered cars or worst, rethink a complex part
of their cars. Finally, the threat of substitution is quite low and except if someone builds a
cheap flying car, it shouldn’t be a major preoccupation.
Tesla has a high potential to penetrate the car market. The macro-environment is rather
profitable and Musk’s firm has sufficient advance to become leader in electric vehicle market.
Moreover, Tesla diversification on the sustainable life-style market embodies a huge
opportunity for the firm to lead the next energetic transition and rebuild our world in a more
efficient way. This potential remains an eventuality but is supported by strong investments in
R&D and Capital expenditures which demonstrates the will from Tesla to gather assets and
create the perfect synergy to make substantial profits as soon as possible.
The transformational power of Tesla isn’t so much evidenced when looking just at the firm
level. But when looking at Leader level, we can easily observe than Elon Musk has a large entail
of company which all deserve a common future, more sustainable and responsible while being
far more efficient, and that Tesla is a key part of this future drawing. These findings support
the necessity from tesla to be highly responsible on its strategic choices. Especially when it’s
about law and non-ethical high tech, safe agreements with supplier, customer satisfaction or
taking advantage of new entries in the electric car market by becoming their supplier.
Tesla has obviously, a historic opportunity to redefine the car maker landscape and to
stimulate as a pioneer the sustainable life-style market, but some variable could interfere with
such a perfect plan. The company’s actual defaults are based on two points. First, the Tesla
youth makes investors some-time reluctant to trust Musk and could eventually make TSLA
stock quiet elastic to panic. Secondly, the timing. Indeed, Tesla’s advance in “electric” is
certain, but also certainly short. The least issue in the Tesla Motors value chain could have
catastrophic impacts on its future and let enough place for its big traditional competitors to
take the all stake and let tesla behind.
Potential scenarios are driven by the eventual future profitability of Tesla from now to 2018.
We chose to set 2018 as a deadline for profitability because other car makers are announcing
their models broadly for this horizon.
In the case where Tesla follows its 2016 trend and increases its net income to reach substantial
positive figures in 2018, the company will must expand its business by extending its activity to
new locations. Nowadays Tesla factories are only located in the USA which make them
relatively centralized. Opening new factories in Europe can be a real opportunity for the firm
to reduce its delivery costs, decentralize its activities and better frame the European market.
Indeed, in Europe Tesla Motors can see lots of new opportunities; after the merger of the
German engineering business Grohmann, the giant could start think about opportunities in
the UK. Indeed, Britain is known to have talented automotive engineers. People would think
that after what happen in England in Jun 2016, the England market would slow down but the
country remains an attractive market for new entrance, especially because its 17% corporate
tax, and could be an occasion for Tesla Motors to expand its activity to another country in
In the case where Tesla does not achieve to meet its demand and make a sufficient profit,
Tesla will be quickly out performed by new electric models of traditional car makers. In such
situation, no investment in Europe nor anywhere would be relevant. The best thing Tesla could
do in such scenario is increasing its partnership strategy with car makers producing electric
car to supply them core electric components and thus make a profit in other’s car sales.
In both situations, Tesla could also use its transformational leadership to expand its activities
in sustainable life-style services. Solar roof merger is a key strategic decision and new tiles
created by both companies must be sold across the whole world. This should allow Tesla to
create quick profit which could be a high competitive advantage vis-à-vis of its competitors
which, for the major part, only sell cars or car-related goods.
Conclusion and short-term recommendations
Tesla is currently doing well. By investing a lot in R&D as well as in Property, Plant and
Equipment, the firm correctly strengthen the ground to become from now to 2018/2020 a
profitable leader in electric car manufacturing ready to climb its growth phase. Being relatively
young in the car market, which could be a dangerous weakness, Tesla strategically diversify
its activity to a larger market which is sustainable life-style market. This market adjustment is
especially relevant concerning Tesla, mainly because its CEO Elon Musk has a great
background in revolutionary companies whose long-term visions converge toward a global
optimistic scenario. The next 3 years will be determinant for Tesla’s future which can be
exceptional if it keeps its electric pioneer aura as well as unsatisfactory if strategic errors
reduce Tesla’s advance. In both case, Tesla must keep investing in energy management
services which is a solid opportunity to make the whole Tesla activity full of sense and
• Export Solar roof everywhere, no exception, this product is a huge opportunity. Millions of
houses are built every year, tiles are often part of it and Solar roof is a simple substitute to
classic tiles. More solar energy is there, more we will need to manage it smartly which
occasionally could increase our Power wall sales.
• Keep partnering with traditional car makers to provide them battery packages. If they enter
the market violently with high volume produced, Tesla will be unable to follow the rhythm so
it should at least benefit of this sudden competition by providing core electric components.
• Sell a “Pro-Pack” including models III for employees and Power Pack to optimize companies’
energy consumption. Target high economic growth regions like Singapore or Dubai. Model III
is accessible for companies and employees will be satisfied and more productive.
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