Category winner: Tesla Motors Business Model Configuration; Case Study Update; from Tesla Motors to Tesla

This case won the Free Case category at The Case Centre Awards and competitions 2020. #CaseAwards2020

Presentation of the trophies for the Free Case category 2020
Free case

Celebrating the win

Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we were unable to present Gunter and Erwin in person with their trophies for winning the Free Case category in 2020.

Even though we couldn't make it to St. Gallen in Switzerland, the trophies have!

We are delighted to celebrate Gunter and Erwin’s win by sharing this picture of them with their awards - congratulations!

Discover more about the winning case below.

Find out more about the Case Awards here.

The case

teslaWho – the protagonist

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO.


Tesla is the electric vehicle phenomena, with a net worth around $22.3 billion. In recent years, it has become more than just a vehicle operation, adding battery production, SolarCity and production of a Hyperloop tunnel to its portfolio.


Musk didn’t want Tesla to just be an electric vehicle company, so he ventured into the aforementioned fields, which including dropping the ‘Motors’ from its name.

Musk wanted Tesla to be a vertically integrated sustainable company, with the main focus being on clean energy solutions, whether that would be an electric truck, solar panels or a Hyperloop system – a network of tunnels to carry cars at high speed.

Tesla signWhen?

Musk first unveiled his Tesla masterplan in 2006, setting out to start manufacturing electric cars and increasing their scale so as to be affordable to a mass market.

By 2017, Tesla’s market capitalisation reached $57 billion, $5 billion more than BMW, which produces 30 times more vehicles than Tesla.


In a bid to increase its worldwide presence, Tesla sold a 5% share to Chinese tech firm Tencent, a deal that resulted in the local production of Tesla cars near Shanghai, dramatically lowering costs. Tesla is also visible in Germany after acquiring the engineering from Grohmann Engineering, reconstituting it as its new Advanced Automation facility.

Solar panelsKey quote

“Just like with electric cars where electric cars originally didn’t look good, they had low range…they were like a golf cart, so people had a real hard time buying electric cars. And I think something similar needs to happen to solar. We really need to make solar panels as appealing as electric cars have become.” – Elon Musk on SolarCity project.

What next?

Was Musk stretching himself too far by becoming CEO of SolarCity and the Hyperloop adventure, in addition to Tesla? Would sceptical analyst reports bear true? Then again, Musk is full of surprises.

The authors

authorsErwin Hettich and Guenter Mueller-Stewens

Erwin and Günter discuss why Tesla is such a good case subject and their top case writing tips.

Receiving attention

The authors said: “We are happy that the practice-oriented research work of our university receives this prominent attention. It motivates us to keep in touch with Tesla’s exciting development.”

Learning from success and failure

test drivingThe duo commented: “The world likes talking about exciting firms like Tesla and bold visionaries such as Elon Musk. It is a case that is very close to our research interest in business models, offering a plethora of topics for discussions and many great learnings from successes and failures alike.”

Test driving the case

The authors added: “We launched and probed our case at the University of St. Gallen in our executive teaching together with Tesla Switzerland. They provided three Tesla S for test drives. This was exciting as it happened at a time when the brand Tesla was unknown to most course participants.”

Top case writing tips

“Our top tips for writing a good case are to choose a problem where you are intrinsically motivated, an international scope and a situation that is interesting to follow over a longer time with updates.”

About the authors

Günter Müller-Stewens is Professor Emeritus of Strategic Management at the University of St. Gallen.

Erwin Hettich is Assistant Professor of Strategic Management at the University of St. Gallen.

Interested in finding out more?

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Tesla Motors Business Model Configuration; Case Study Update; from Tesla Motors to Tesla
Ref 317-0365-1

Teaching note
Ref 314-132-8


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