This paper focusses on a comparative study of 16 British and West German machine tool manufacturers, which shows clear differences in the extent of user involvement in the product development process. Broadly speaking in the West German companies, user involvement was greater and was associated with the development of higher quality products better suited to user needs. A sample of 129 machine tool buyers from the two countries supported this generalisation from the customer's viewpoint. Comparisons between the approach to user involvement in each country are drawn from case studies of the British and West German machine tool suppliers. These case studies were developed from discussions held with managers involved in the new product development process in each company.