For those of us in the CIE Automotive family, that annus horribilis will also be remembered as the year in which we gave our best: we prioritised the safety of our employees, uninterrupted supplies for our customers and protection of our shareholders' investments, while supporting our suppliers and maintaining our environmental and community commitments. Thanks to that formidable effort, we managed to end the year with almost €1.5 billion of surplus liquidity, putting us in a strong financial position, having generated a net profit of €185 million in the worst year on record for the automotive industry, all while making firm continued progress on our ESG agenda.
In the 2020 Annual Report you have before you we will describe in detail how we managed to remain profitable in a year in which the automotive market contracted by 16.2%. We will also tell you about the considerable progress we made on measuring our environmental footprint and advancing towards a circular economy, as well as what we did as a socially responsible company vis-a-vis all of our stakeholders. We would like to use these lines to sincerely thank everyone who accompanied us on this complicated journey.
Looking back on the events of 2020, and fully aware that the pandemic is far from over, it would be pretentious to say we were ready for what lay in store. Nobody was. What we can tell you, however, is that we had the solidity and flexibility needed to tackle the challenges induced by it. Having learned our lessons in the wake of prior crises, we had a resilient business model in place, the know-how of an unbeatable team and the technological capabilities needed to tackle the ensuing challenges.
"Thanks to that formidable effort, we managed to end the year with a net profit of €185 million in the worst year on record for the automotive industry"
Our business model was, without a shadow of a doubt, the key to surmounting the difficulties encountered in 2020. Our geographical diversity, with 110 manufacturing facilities in 16 countries, enabled us to service the global OEMs throughout and partially offset successive stoppages in certain regions with ongoing activity in others. Thanks to our customer diversification, specifically a well-populated portfolio of OEMs and Tier-1 suppliers, we were able to mitigate the drop in demand from some of them. Our multi-technology approach enabled us provide our customers with products that match their evolving vehicle mixes and needs as vehicle electrification accelerated further in 2020. The strict financial discipline that frames every single decision we take was critical to keeping our EBITDA-to-cash conversion ratio at 59%. Our decentralised management made it possible for each region and division to take the best decisions for its specific circumstances, underpinned by a common strategy, thus helping to create value for the group as a whole. Lastly, the integration of ESG criteria into our model, which materialised in the rollout of a new dashboard with 79 performance indicators in every factory's management plan, coupled with our renewed pledge to upholding the United Nations Global Compact principles, meant that our values and determination to attain excellence and sustainability remained unshakeable even at the height of the pandemic.
We had, therefore, a very solid base on which to layer a global strategy aimed at maintaining profitability in the face of the pandemic: the COVID-19 Response Plan. We launched that plan during the second quarter, articulating it around four key lines of initiative: (i) work flexibility measures, aligned with the legislation and specifics of each country; (ii) war economy tactics, which meant strict control over fixed costs, capex and working capital; (iii) liquidity and financing, which translated into new and extended credit lines; and (iv) astute production planning, including new safety measures at the factories and stock buffers to ensure supply continuity.
Coordinated execution of that plan and the gradual improvements eked out at the more recently integrated companies underpinned EBITDA and EBIT margins of 15% and almost 10%, respectively, very high levels considering the double-digit contraction in the automotive market which had a highly adverse impact on most sector players' profitability. In addition, thanks to high operating cash flow, we were able to contain net debt, close our M&A transactions, pay our shareholders the agreed-upon dividend and cancel shares to boost remuneration.
Although the resilience displayed by CIE Automotive in the face of the pandemic was not tangible in its share price performance throughout the year, our shares did end 2020 higher than they started, at €22.06, a gain of 4.6%, despite the dire performance sustained by Spanish equities, with the benchmark Ibex-35 index correcting by over 15%.
All of our markets contributed to our healthy earnings performance with positive operating margins. Revenue in constant currencies declined by 13.2% even though vehicle production in our markets collapsed by over 20%.
Our healthy performance across Europe, North America, Brazil and Asia is largely attributable to the reliability and quality of our supply chain worldwide. In the midst of the pandemic, when many automotive parts suppliers were facing difficulties in honouring their obligations, CIE Automotive was able to offer business continuity thanks to good production planning and supply chain optimisation. To achieve that feat, we relied on the invaluable contribution of our suppliers, 92% of which are local.
That being said, we had to take difficult decisions to safeguard our viability as a company. In the face of the government decreed closures and the attendant ramifications on the industry, we were forced to temporarily reduce our headcount, availing of the schemes and measures put in place in each country. During the second half of the year, however, as our business picked up, we began to bring people back to work, ending the year with a headcount of 25,196.
"Our healthy performance across Europe, North America, Brazil and Asia is largely attributable to the reliability and quality of our supply chain worldwide"
While employee safety has always been a priority, in 2020 it became the key factor driving all our decisions. To ensure their safety, in addition to formulating and overseeing a prevention protocol at every factory, we introduced remote working arrangements for all positions not requiring in-person presence. In parallel, we continued to make progress on a series of initiatives designed to guarantee application of universal labour rights and equal opportunities across our diverse workforce.
Given our vested interest in the automotive industry, to tackle the challenges induced by the pandemic, we joined the sector in its call for an emergency action plan for the sector, and we continued to work through a number of associations on shaping the mobility of tomorrow. We believe we are well positioned to continue to respond to the prevailing trends in the automotive sector: vehicle electrification; decarbonisation and productive process efficiency; vehicle light-weighting; and process digitalisation.
With the mobility of tomorrow ever closer to becoming a reality, in 2020 we launched a number of projects in the electric and hybrid vehicle segment; we worked to collect data for the purpose of calculating our carbon footprint; we took our first steps in the self-generation of clean energy with photovoltaic facilities at a number of factories; and we continued to work on a number of projects related with the implementation of Industry 4.0 capabilities at the factory level.
In tandem, we fortified our global positioning with the completion in January of the acquisition of Italy's Somaschini, a deal which makes us a top global player in gear systems; the inauguration of greenfield facilities by CIE Plastics in Mexico and by AEL in India; and an increased shareholding in MCIE, the venture resulting from our strategic alliance with Mahindra&Mahindra.
“You will never find a better sparring partner than adversity”, said Golda Meir. Adversity was our sparring partner for every day of 2020 and it ended up boosting our motivation and resilience, leaving us stronger and better prepared for the next challenge. Stick with us because we will continue to exceed your expectations.