The name for the cars was taken from Lerma, a city in the state of Mexico, where VAM engines were manufactured.
The made in Mexico Lerma was a unique hybrid since it used a chassis and some body panels from the AMC Concord, but the rear of the car was borrowed from the AMC Spirit. Although the Lerma was a single unit body design (monocoque), a British newspaper article erroneously described it as "a bolt-together kit of a car".
There were two body styles available, a 3-door hatchback and a 5-door hatchback (a body style not available for any of AMC's models at that time). Although presented to AMC's management as a potential model for other markets, the Lerma was marketed only in Mexico starting in 1981, and competed in an expanding market segment. The Lerma's most unique and striking hatchback design feature also proved to be its biggest drawback, because the shortened rear end resulted in a car with a limited space for storage.
It is believed that the VAM Lerma was the first Mexican-only body style, and it is also one of the few Mexican-only models in history. Vehiculos Automotores Mexicanos is remembered as the first Mexican automotive company that created a car that is regarded by many as totally national. Although the Lerma was conceived in Mexico, it cannot be considered completely Mexican, since many parts and components were designed and manufactured in the United States. However, with the exception of the instrument panel, the elegant interior of the Lerma did not copy of any model and featured uniquely designed and upholstered seats as well as interior door panels.
A British newspaper reported in 2007 that the 1980s VAM model was the closest the Mexican industry has come to a producing a local car since Ford began assembling cars in the country in 1925, and until the Mexican-designed and assembled Mastretta MXT sports car. However, a Mexican newspaper reported in 2004 that despite having its origins in Germany's Opel and its marketing under an American name, the Chevrolet C2 would be the winner because its design was almost 70% Mexican and the C2 was created expressly and exclusively for the domestic Mexican market.