A bitter struggle over Tesla Motors' bid to operate three stores in Ohio moved closer to an end yesterday with a 32-0 vote by the Ohio Senate.

A bitter struggle over Tesla Motors’ bid to operate three stores in Ohio moved closer to an end yesterday with a 32-0 vote by the Ohio Senate.

Senate Bill 260 now heads to the Ohio House, where swift approval is expected as a result of a compromise between Tesla, an electric-car manufacturer, and the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association. Under terms of a deal worked out last month, Tesla will be permitted to open a store in Cleveland and can continue operating stores at Easton and in Cincinnati. No other stores will be allowed.

Only two lawmakers spoke about the bill yesterday: Sen. Tom Patton, R-Strongsville, the bill sponsor, and Sen. Tom Sawyer, D-Akron.

Patton said the bill will “restore the trust of all parties who expect there to be a level playing field” in automobile sales in Ohio. “It was never the intent of this bill to shut down any company’s business in Ohio.”

Sawyer offered his colleagues a history lesson, pointing out that Henry Ford was the first to challenge what he considered to be a restrictive patent law in early 1900s. “It’s very difficult to legislate marketplaces,” Sawyer said.

The bill tweaks a law that, over decades, ensured that auto dealers were independently owned franchises separate from manufacturers such as Ford, General Motors and Toyota. Tesla challenged the practice and the law by using a business model of selling directly to customers, not through dealers.

While the debate over Tesla raised questions about whether Ohio’s franchise law is antiquated, Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, said after the vote that he has not heard other concerns.

“We have franchise law in this state for a reason, to make sure we balance, usually, consumer protection with various interests,” Faber said. “Who is going to service the warranties? Who is going to service the vehicles? Who is going to make sure they’re complying with other states’ sales laws?”

Dispatch Reporter Jim Siegel contributed to this story.