GM CEO Sees Strong US Sales, Despite Payroll Tax Bite

Auto sales are expected to be in the range of 15 million and 15.5 million units this year, General Motors Chairman and CEO Daniel Akerson told CNBC on Thursday, adding that he sees an underpinning of strength that will drive the industry for the next four to five years.

"There's been steady growth coming out of the 'Great Recession' back in '09 and '08. We dropped to lower levels than anyone could have imagined," Akerson in a "Squawk Box" interview. "So it's been a steady comeback fueled by people who did not buy cars almost 24 months."

He did acknowledge that the payroll tax increase has had a dampening effect on sales so far this year and the improving U.S. economy has not been as robust as he would have like it to be.

But the average age of cars currently on the road is a tailwind for GM, he said, noting that the automaker's new line of trucks is well-timed for the uptick in economic growth.

General Motors also said Thursday that it will pump about $330 million into four U.S. manufacturing sites to produce more fuel-efficient engines and transmission systems. So far this year, the company has announced $1.2 billion in investments in its North American plants.

While Japan's continued devaluation of its currency makes Japanese autos cheaper overseas, Akerson stressed that GM competes on fundamentals and does not make excuses about the effects of foreign currency fluctuations.

And amid escalating tensions in North Korea, he said GM is making contingency plans for the safety of employees in South Korea, but he said it would be difficult to swiftly shift production from the region.

By CNBC's Matthew J. Belvedere; Follow him on Twitter @Matt_SquawkCNBC. Reuters also contributed to this report.