Evidence of the gas pedal problem that caused Toyota cars to accelerate suddenly, leading sometimes to deadly high-speed crashes, first emerged six years ago. The automaker knew that the problem, long blamed on the pedals getting stuck on heavy floor mats, was due to a plastic part in the pedal mechanism, The Wall Street Journal reports. Toyota’s secretive culture limited its communications with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which started looking into acceleration complaints in 2004. The regulator regrettably focused only on incidents involving short bursts of acceleration, which slowed detection of the problem. Over the next two years, Toyota pushed back against the complaints, arguing operator error was to blame. A survey in 2007 of 1,986 car owners found 59 complaints of unexpected acceleration, and the floor mats got the blame. Then, in 2008, the European division of the car maker found that the gas pedal had a faulty plastic part—the same part used in models sold in the U.S. Toyota still didn't alert regulators to the problem. By the time Toyota went to the NHTSA last month, the regulator was “steamed.” Toyota didn’t have enough parts to do repairs on all the affected cars, and often NHTSA gives car makers extra time on a recall to get extra parts. Not this time. Toyota had to stop selling.