It may sound gory, but Rockwell F. Clancy, surveying what’s happened economically in the last year, cites an old saying: “Make money while there’s blood on the street.”

That’s another way of saying opportunities present themselves in tough times. Clancy, executive director-financial services for J.D. Power and Associates, quickly adds a couple of caveats.

One, don’t cause the bloodshed. Two, “it’s not a good time to make more money at the customer’s expense,” he says at a recent Consumer Bankers Assn. auto finance conference.

He cites the truncated state of auto leasing as an example of how to capitalize on a situation deemed by some people as a negative.

Last year, some auto makers drew back from leasing or pulled out completely. As a result, there is a wide disparity this year between vehicles coming off lease and anticipated new lease originations.

“About 2.5 million vehicles are coming off lease this year, compared with 1.1 million estimated leases for 2009,” Clancy says. “That’s a 1.4 million-unit sales gap. It was about even at 2.5 million in 2007.”

Creative financial institutions and dealerships will cater to that big off-lease crowd, because most will need another vehicle and, moreover, “leasing attracts a higher quality customer,” Clancy says.

A mission accomplished would be “if I can get them from a $350-a-month lease to a $350-a-month purchase” of a vehicle that is acceptable to the consumer but likely not as upscale as the one that leasing made possible at that rate, he says. “Vary practices to account for changes.”

The current economy has shaken consumers, Clancy says, citing a J.D. Power survey that indicated consumer confidence was worse in October 2008 than after Sept. 11, 2001.

“But my advice is to keep your eye on the horizon,” he says. “The temptation is to keep an eye on the headlines and develop a batten-down-the-hatches mentality. We’re showing an upswing in auto sales by next year. Keep a cool head and look to the future.”