NEW YORK (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co. CEO Dan Akerson said the automaker is making backup plans for its operations in South Korea as tensions with North Korea heighten.
"We are making contingency plans for the safety of our employees to the extent that we can," Akerson said in an interview on CNBC today. "Beyond that it's difficult to shift production."
GM has five plants in South Korea where it builds 145,000 vehicles for domestic sales and 1.3 million for export, Akerson said.
North Korea stepped up threats against the U.S, authorizing its military to conduct a potential "smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike." It also transported a missile to its eastern coast, possibly for training and test-firing, marking a further escalation over the regime's nuclear weapons program and United Nations sanctions against it.
GM is seeking advice from its consultants on the crisis, Akerson said.
"Anything that goes on in Korea is critically important to our global production and how we view the world," he said.
Meanwhile, Akerson said the U.S. auto industry will see strong demand for the next four or five years as more drivers continue to replace their aging vehicles.
U.S. industry executives have repeatedly said pent-up demand is helping to drive sales as customers are forced to replace cars and trucks whose average age tops an all-time high of 11 years.
"There's this underlying strength that may go for the next four or five years until we get it back to eight, nine (year) range of average age of the car ..." in the United States, Akerson said while serving as a guest host of the CNBC morning show today.
Reuters contributed to this report.