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PHC Feature in Motor Magazine WA

PHC Feature in Motor Magazine WA

Meeting the challenge Perfectly

When Firas Alhashimy, owner of PHC 4x4 Car Accessories in Bayswater, says he loves a challenge, it comes as no surprise once you have heard his story. From heading a multi-faceted motoring business empire started by his father in 1952 to fleeing war ravaged Iraq with his family for the relative safety of Jordan in 2005, the likeable Iraqi has lived a remarkable life.

“My dad started PHC as an importer and in 1955 he became the Iraqi distribution agent for Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge. Iraq was very rich and the first Middle Eastern country to embrace motor vehicles,” Firas said.

“In 1980, Iraq stopped the importation of American cars and we then became the distributor of Japanese brands such Toyota, Mitsubishi and Nissan as well as being a wholesaler and retailer of motoring accessories,” he said.

Never one to stop finding opportunities, Firas established a manufacturing plant for car mudguards covering all Iraq in 1988 and in 1993 a seat cover manufacturing business employing 14 workers in addition to a screen printing enterprise and the auto accessories business.

In 2000, his father died, and Firas had to wind back some of the operations against the background of increasing civil unrest in his home country and ultimately a devastating war.

He made the decision to move his family to Jordan at the end of 2004 with the Iraqi war becoming ever more deadly and in 2005 established an office in China. Here PHC Tyres and PHC Automotive Batteries was born, with export exclusive to the Middle East that continues to this day.


Coming to Australia

The story of how he came to live in Australia is extraordinary.

“We had been permanent residents in Jordan for five years with me flying back and forth to China managing my business interests,” he said.

“One day in early 2010 I get a call from the Australian Consulate saying that we have a chance to immigrate to Australia, to which I reply we didn’t apply.

“Everyone who fled Iraq had to register with the United Nations for possible resettlement which is how we ended up on the Australian Consulate’s radar.

“In early September 2010 we have an interview and a health check and on October 26 – 40 days later – I receive a phone call saying ‘congratulations your visa has been approved and you fly to Australia on November 30’.

“There are thousands of families suffering – my wife managed a volunteer organisation helping those in need named Benevolent Hands Organization – and here we were being offered this opportunity even though we had never formally applied.

“I thought maybe it was good if I came with my family to a safe place as the Middle East was so unstable and who knew what was going to happen,” he said.

Consulting to the Oil & Gas industry for several years while still managing his China/Middle East importation business, he eventually decided to come back to what he describes as his “passion hobby” – selling automotive accessories.

“We opened the first shop in Wotton Street Bayswater in 2018 just to test the market,” Firas said.

“I thought that the prices competitors were charging was crazy, so my aim was to provide quality products and service at an affordable cost. We live by the PHC motto help the customer.

“More than 90 percent of what we sell is manufactured overseas and a lot of it is under our own brand. We also install, but we do not call that side of the business a workshop, but rather a salon fitting,” he says proudly.

Now a third-generation company, with Firas’ son operating the Wotton Street store, expansion is very much on the cards.

“We opened this Collier Road showroom in late 2020 and my aim is to open several more stores over the next few years as a franchise operation,” Firas said.

The stores will all employ a consistent interior design and branding theme, initially south of Perth before entering the Eastern States market.

“We also wish to become a wholesaler as well as a retailer and there is a lot of interest from the Middle East for a PHC 4x4 Accessories store.

“It is not easy to make a couple of branches and to care for your customers and give the best service you possibly can, but I love the challenge, and nothing is impossible,” he said.

The pandemic has obviously had both a positive and negative impact on the business.

“Pre pandemic, I estimate 40 to 50 percent of our business was backpackers but now our customer base extends to all budgets, big and small” Firas said.

“The last two years, when a lot of people were customising and improving their vehicles for travel, business was good, but the problem was getting the product from overseas. Container and transportation costs skyrocketed and delays in supply are common, but I try and keep my prices similar to pre covid,” he said.

Interestingly, PHC stands for Perfect House Company – “if you have a perfect house, you can have a perfect life, perfect everything,” Firas explains proudly.

Given where Firas now finds himself – “we are so lucky to be in Perth, particularly with the pandemic” – his business name of PHC would appear to reflect this ethos ... perfectly.

The good hobby gone bad

Firas describes the auto accessories business as his “passion hobby”. His previous hobby was restoring and building cars.

“The first car I restored was a 1953 Ford Zephyr 6,” he said.

His most recent purchases for restoration are two 1983 720 4x4 Datsun UTE and his pride and joy is a personally customised 2000 bright yellow Mercedes SLK Convertible.

However, there is one car story from Firas’ past that almost brings a tear to his eye.

Many cars he restored in Iraq gained some unwanted attention – a 1962 Chevrolet Impala (“amazing car, jet black with perfect brand new chrome that I restored from zero”) and a 1963 Plymouth Barracuda (“I loved that car”).

“Sometime around 1994/95 I have a tip off that a Government VIP knows of my cars and to be careful and I know what this means,” Firas explains.

“They take the car whether you like it or not and give you a gift in exchange and whether this gift is equal or not equal in value like or don’t like does not matter.

“So that very day I sell all cars at about half their value and transfer ownership because I am scared to put myself in this situation.

“One week later, the person I sold them to, who also has a 1963 Buick Riviera, gets a knock at the door saying Mister X wishes to meet you as His Excellency would be very happy with your cars,” Firas says.

I asked Firas would saying ‘no’ result in that person just disappearing. Chillingly, Firas just smiles and says “it is just not possible to say no.”



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