Like all Daewoos preceding it, the LeMans took its underpinnings from a European Opel design. In the case of the LeMans, the GM T platform-based Opel Kadett E was the donor vehicle—badge engineered in the form of the LeMans, and later the facelifted Cielo. In markets outside of South Korea, the car bore the Asüna GT, Asüna SE, Daewoo 1.5i, Daewoo Fantasy, Daewoo Pointer, Daewoo Racer, Passport Optima and Pontiac LeMans names. The facelifted Daewoo Cielo in five-door hatchback form was exported to Europe as the Daewoo Nexia with the four-door sedan holding Daewoo Racer name. The Daewoo Heaven name was also used, although the "LeMans" nameplate was not used at all for the facelifted model.
The first generation Daewoo LeMans was available as a three-door hatchback and a four-door sedan when introduced in 1986. Sales of the LeMans began in 1988 in North America where it was sold as the Pontiac LeMans.
In 1989 more models were released including a sportier Pontiac LeMans GSE based on the Opel Kadett GSi, with a 96hp (72kW) 2.0litre four-cylinder engine. The GSE was available in a monochromatic paint scheme in red, white or silver with 14inch alloy wheels, fog lights and a rear spoiler. The GSE also had the Recaro-style seats of the Kadett. A Pontiac LeMans SE sedan with upgraded equipment from the base and LE models also had the 96hp (72kW) 2.0litre four-cylinder engine, also used in the Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunbird. In North America, poor quality tarnished sales and the Pontiac LeMans and Asüna SE/GT were discontinued after 1993 with no replacement. Later that year, the Asüna brand was discontinued altogether.