2021 Master Class -【Business】Tesla: International Business Management


Professor Introduction:

UC Berkeley

Professor Paul Tiffany was an assistant to the president of a large national financial services firm, and as an organizational analyst for a large public services agency, runs his own firm to provide management service to firms worldwide. He has written The Decline of American Steel, published by Oxford University, Business Plans for Dummies (John Wiley & Sons), co-authored with Steven Peterson, “Best Business Book of the Year” award. The book went through fifteen printings in ten languages. Professor  Tiffany also received the Anvil Award, presented annually to the outstanding professor in Wharton’s graduate program, as well as the Lindback Award as an outstanding professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Cheit Award as the outstanding professor in the Executive MBA program at the University of California, Berkeley.


Course Description:

In 2018 Tesla, the US-based electric vehicle (EV) carmaker, announced its plans for a Gigafactory in Shanghai, China. The new plant was designed to eventually manufacture 500,000 vehicles a year for the company. It would be the largest manufacturing project in Shanghai’s history funded at least partly by foreign investment.

At first glance, Tesla’s plans seemed to be an obvious winner. In 2017, Chinese buyers accounted for more than half of the 1 million electric cars sold globally. China’s public policymakers also have given strong support for EVs. The PRC government wants to put 7 million clean energy vehicles on the road by 2025. Meanwhile, manufacturing locally will help Tesla avoid high tariffs China imposed on cars imported from the US. However, Tesla will face intense competition from local competitors in this market. Shenzhen-based BYD, backed by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, is China’s top automobile firm, selling 113,600 new-energy cars in 2017. Global auto brands like Ford and Volkswagen have also set up joint ventures (JVs) in China. 

This three-week course will explore the management of international (or “cross-border”) business operations similar to those like Tesla.  It will utilize a mix of lectures, classroom group discussions, and case analyses.  A key focus will be the composition of a college-level research paper—that is, training the student how to expertly write such a report. Course Teaching Assistants will be available throughout to help students with the assignments and other issues related to the program.

Student Learning Objectives:

The primary objective of the course is for students to learn how to undertake business research in order to address a business issue that matters to their community, with an emphasis on cross-border business strategies. Students will start with a question, or a “hypothesis,” that they deem important. Then they will investigate their hypothesis and try to answer it through typical business analytical research methods. They will do so from a range of methods and models, such as business strategy, industry analysis, competitive advantage, organizational mission and culture, competitor analysis, and SWOT analysis. The final result will be the completion of a research paper that conforms to accepted standards for a U.S. university course in business management.


Course Outline:

Block I: July 5-9 (9am- 12pm)

Introduction to the Program

  • Purpose, Goals, Outcomes
  • Expectations and deliverables from students

Textbook: (will be provided)

S. Greener, Business Research Methods (Ventus Publishing ApS, 2008) ISBN 978-87-7681-421.

Start Thinking About Your Project Thesis

Primary Assignment: Be prepared to suggest and discuss some research topics in class. You will be given time to consider an appropriate research topic and proposed methodology; this task must be completed by July 15. 

Your chosen topics will be discussed with all participants at that time (and if some students want to work together on a joint research project, that will be acceptable; however, a maximum of three students per project may work as a team).


What is “international strategy” and how does it differ from business strategy for domestic markets?

Cross-Border Business Strategy: How Is It Different?


C.A. de Kluyver, FUNDAMENTALS OF GLOBAL STRATEGY (2010, Business Expert Press). 


Block II: July 12-16 (9am-12pm)

Topic 1 

The “foreign market entry” decision for the cross-border business firm

Topic 2

Current problems with “globalization” and the rise of China 


“INTEL: Strategic Decisions in Locating a New   Assembly and Test Plant (A)”


“Death by China”

A video composed by Professor Peter Navarro of the Irvine campus of the University of California, currently serving as a special assistant to President Trump for international trade, will be shown in the second half of class on June 19.  The purpose of this video is to provide you with insight about the present dissatisfaction of the American government with the trade practices of the PRC.


Block III  July 19-23 9am-11am


Marketing consumer goods in China

 Conclusion to the Program

  • This block will be the last week of our course. In it we will discuss the EV firm Tesla and its plans for competing in China and will also emphasize the writing of your research report– including acceptable methods for presenting data and citing sources consulted. Guidelines will be given.  

You may also consult a recent (2018) student report on Tesla’s attempts to create a marketing strategy for the EVs to be produced in its new Shanghai manufacturing facility.  This will be sent to your TAs for distribution well before this last class Block. 

The Instructor will finally discuss the requirements, including due date, for your written research report. 


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