Ford is to unveil a new concept at the North American International Auto Show which will show the future direction of its mid-size SUVs, according to media reports.

Online motoring publication Automotive News cited a Ford source who confirmed that the US automaker is prepping a new medium SUV concept which would replace both the European Kuga and the Ford Escape in the US and could be debuted in 2012.

The Kuga is one of Europe's most popular SUVs, ranked second only to the Volkswagen Tiguan in 2009 and topping it in some countries such as the UK.

Described by Ford as a "huge hit", it was updated earlier this year with new powertrain options to reduce CO2 output and boost performance.

As Ford switches to a common platform, its is likely to form the basis of a new generation US Ford Escape, which was sold as the Ford Maverick in Europe before the introduction of the Kuga.

Although the Escape never caught on in Europe, it has proved popular in the US, winning awards from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Kelley Blue Book.

Like the Ford C-Max and Ford Focus, the replacement for the Kuga/Escape will use the company's C-car platform, which aims to make new vehicles nearly identical in all markets, with 80 percent parts commonality around the world.

Ford confirmed December 9 that it would complete the refitting of its Louisville, Kentucky factory in late 2011 so that it could build what it described as "the next generation Ford Escape."

However, when it finally arrives the new vehicle is likely to face stiff competition from other new SUVs such as the new Opel Antara and Nissan Qashqai.

The North American International Auto Show runs January 15 - 23 in Detroit, MI.

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