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Beetle lovers lament Volkswagen's decision to squash Bug

Local enthusiasts say they're not totally buying VW announcement

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – From the classic Beetle to the souped-up Dune Buggy, the Volkswagen Bug has been an icon on the pavement.

But last year, Volkswagen announced it would stop the production of Beetles this summer, and enthusiasts are lamenting the end of what's been called “the people's car.”

"They say more smiles per mile in a classic Volkswagen,” said Michale Shores, with Dune Buggy Bros. Car Club, one of several clubs in Northeast Florida devoted to the love of the Bug.

"The whole brand is a quirky kind of vehicle and through all these years since 1938 to present time there's one thing you recognize on the road -- it's a Beetle,” said Beetle enthusiast Al Stewart. "Pun intended: The Bug just bites you!"

But Volkswagen announced it would hit the brakes on Beetle production because of lagging sales and a consumer shift from sedans to SUVs and trucks.

Some Beetle fans are calling a bluff on the announcement, saying the company has done it before and still ended up producing newer models.

"Although I was a bit shocked, I'm still optimistic that history will repeat itself and the Bug will return again,” Stewart said.

"I do understand, they have to move on, but they're coming out with some new things with electric cars,” Shores said.

Two special Beetle models with driver assistance technology will join the fleet before Volkswagen squashes the Bug.

There's a special meetup for Beetle lovers at 9 a.m. Sunday at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, where preparations were underway Thursday for the Jacksonville International Auto Show, which will be held this weekend.