Santander Consumer USA is kicking off what is expected to be a strong year for auto ABS issuance with a  $1.25 billion securitization of receivables.

The deal, Santander Drive Auto Receivables Trust 2013-1, is structured with $184 million of A-1 notes; $355 million of A-2 notes; $294 million of A-3 notes; $137 million of B notes; $169 million of C notes; $109 million of D notes and $42.3 million of E notes.

The class E notes will not be publicly offered and are likely to be either privately placed or retained by the bank, according to a preliminary deal prospectus filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday.  

Citibank and Deutsche Bank have been named lead underwriters on the deal. Barclays Capital, JP Morgan and RBC Capital will underwrite only the class A portion of the structure.

Autos are expected to account for the largest segment of the consumer ABS market again in 2013, according to figures reported by Wells Fargo in its structured products outlook for 2013. The bank said that issuance should reach a total of $80 billion this year.

In 2012, deals backed by prime auto loans topped $45 billion, and analysts anticipate this will increase to $50 billion in 2013, based on continued strong consumer demand for new vehicles. “Auto ABS is now the benchmark sector in consumer ABS, in our view,” said Wells Fargo analysts said in the report.

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